Second visit to İmralı may take place within a couple of days: Turkish PM

ANKARA – Hürriyet – 14.2.2013 – Messages delivered by the government and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) executives appeared to be in harmony on Feb. 13, as both sides took pains to use careful language regarding the next step of the ongoing “peace process.” Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan noted that a second visit to İmralı island may take place either this week or next week.

“Our related colleagues are working [on the matter]. The visit will be this week if possible, or else it will be next week,” he told reporters ahead of his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Central Decision and Executive Council (MKYK) meeting.

“The [required] applications will be made; we have declared our principles. Within the scope of those principles, two or three people can be sent to the island,” Erdoğan said, adding that no application had yet been received by the Justice Ministry for such a visit.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, for his part, reiterated that the BDP’s visit to İmralı could take place this week. When reminded his previous remarks that “concrete developments over the İmralı process may take place this week,” Ergin replied, “Right, I said that. We are still only on the third day of this week.”

The “İmralı process” or “peace process” refers to the recently launched talks between officials and the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, aimed at convincing PKK militants to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil. As part of the process, BDP deputy Ayla Akat and Ahmet Türk, an independent lawmaker and head of Kurdish umbrella organization the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), were allowed to visit Öcalan on İmralı island on Jan. 3. The second parliamentarian visit to İmralı by BDP lawmakers has been waited for since then. It was previously suggested that the government did not allow Türk to return for a second visit as his criticism of military operations against the PKK had caused uneasiness in government. Other reports claimed that the BDP’s insistent demands to include their party co-chairs in the talks were rejected by the government, as co-chair Gültan Kışanak was one of the deputies seen warmly embracing with PKK militants last August in Hakkari.

The BDP previously announced that BDP co-chairs had appealed to the Justice Ministry to visit İmralı but did not receive a response.

When asked yesterday, BDP officials declined to give a clear answer about the application for the second visit to İmralı. They only noted that their previous applications were for BDP co-chairs, declining to elaborate further when asked whether there could be another application for new names from the BDP. Meanwhile, the BDP issued a statement after its Central Executive Board meeting yesterday, stressing that they fully supported the recent process. “To push forward and to contribute to the process that was launched by Mr. Öcalan is our party’s main duty,” the statement said. In light of remarks given by both sides, the second visit to İmralı is highly likely to take place within a couple of days.