Turks and Kurds look to Good Friday accords as template for peace    

By Ian Traynor – The Guardian UK – March 2, 2013 – While Turkish and Kurdish leaders wait for the music to start in their fragile “peace process”, they have already jointly taken to the dance floor, warily exploring whether enemies can become partners. Two places they have been doing this are Britain and Ireland, with politicians from both sides visiting London, Belfast and Dublin to learn about the methodology and psychology of negotiations that led to the breakthrough Good Friday accords under Tony Blair.

“Although there are historical differences between Northern Ireland and Turkey, it was very important. I learned a lot,” said Ayla Akat, a Kurdish MP who took part. She recalled meetings Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, and learning of his “bicycle theory” of conducting negotiations. “You’ve got to keep pedalling or you fall over.”

Cengiz Çandar, a veteran commentator with contacts on all sides of the Kurdish issue, is likely to be a member of a committee of “wise men” mediating in the negotiations if the talks really get off the ground. He has taken part in three trips to Britain and Ireland, where apart from Powell, he met key players such as Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Bertie Ahern.

The Turks and Kurds also went to the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh to gain insights into how to devolve power from the centre, an issue that is likely to loom large in the “Imrali process” if things get that far.

“The point was that all the parties went together, not separately,” said Sezgin Tanrikulu, the Kurdish deputy leader of the main Turkish opposition CHP party and a former human rights lawyer.

“There was no problem from the social point of view. It was very enjoyable, a very good experience. When you’re together like that, you speak more the same language.”

Importantly, he said the get-togethers in Britain were given a green light by Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While the Troubles and the Kurdish conflict are very different in scale and essence, the message appears to be that there are methods and techniques in conflict-resolution processes that may apply generally. The Turkish government has also set up a cross-departmental unit to try to co-ordinate policy and responses on the Kurdish question on everything from security and counter-terrorism to education and social policy. The head of this unit also recently visited Britain to pick up tips on how best to proceed.