SUMMARY & UPDATE OF SPEECHES : 10th EUTCC CONFERENCE IN BRUSSELS (Click for pictures)
Lorin Sarkisian + Roni Alasor – 7-12-2013 – BRUSSELS – The international conference on EU, Turkey and the Kurds in the European Parliament (EP) gathered prominent speakers from different countries. The political experts, observers and human rights activists underlined the importance of the continuation of the dialogue process between Kurds and Turkey and they urged the international community to act responsible to support and encourage both parts.
The speakers also called on Turkey to provide better conditions for Ocalan to play his role in the process. The criminalisation against Kurds in EU (terror list) was also hardly criticised. Unification and democratic act among all Kurdish communities in all part of Kurdistan were also highlighted during the two days conference.
At the opening of the 10th annual conference, EUTCC (European Union Turkey Civic Commission) President Kariane Westrheim, said: “It is not enough for the European Union to say we support the current process of talks. Acts should follow words. And one of these acts could be lifting the PKK from the terrorist organizations list, since the organisation is in peace process. Additionally, Ocalan should have better condition to lead his movement and to play active role in the political process.”
The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz addressed all the participants in the conference in a welcoming message. “Political dialogue is probably the most painful and difficult path for old adversaries to take. It calls for courage, determination and vision to overcome years of distrust, denigration and antagonism. The European Parliament welcomed the decision to move forward to a negotiated solution meeting the legitimate democratic aspirations of the population groups affected by a conflict which has gone on for too long. All the European institutions must continue to give their strongest support to the current process”, said President Schulz
The President of the Group of European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Gabi Zimmer expressed the group’s hopes that the Turkish government will come up with concrete reforms and legislative proposals to establish a long lasting peace: “We need meaningful constitutional reform including changes to the electoral system. Another key issue will be language rights and the right to Kurdish education. EU institutions must be more active in making sure the peace process can be brought to a successful conclusion.”
GUE/NGL MEP Jürgen Klute, coordinator of the ‘EU Kurdistan’ parliamentary group, expressed his satisfaction to see the progress on the issue of the Kurdish rights: “2013 has been a year of historical change for Kurds. In the past, their identity and existence has been denied and international institutions have not shown particular interest in the oppression of Kurds in Turkey and the Middle East. It is important that the Turkish government meets the commitments it has made. Kurds don’t want empty promises or superficial show events; they want to see political prisoners freed and a democratic constitution. There is no reason for Prime Minister Erdogan to wait for another round of elections before starting real democratic reform.”
Former Sakharov Prize laureate Leyla Zana, independent parliamentarian in Turkey, praised the democratization process and the peace dialog launched by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and called them “historical”. However, Leyla Zana pointed out that these first steps will not give the necessary constructive results, if they are not followed by further reforms: “It is important that sick prisoners are released from jail. It is also important to change the anti terrorism law and to take a more comprehensive step on the release of political prisoners. And it is important to put in place the appropriate measures to end the ban on mother tongue”.
Zübeyir Aydar, Member of the Executive Board of Kurdistan National Congress, spoke about the different stages of the peace negotiations process from last year up to the present moment. Mr. Aydar summarized the proposals of Ocalan for solution of the conflict in three stages:
1. Both sides declare cease fire, and take steps which will create mutual trust. The parliament to become involved in this process and there to be commissions and mechanisms formulated to make process easier. Guerilla forces to retreat from conflict zones.
2. Laws and legislations which create the Kurdish problem to be reviewed and changed which pave way to a resolution
3. Imprisoned political prisoners to be freed, those in the mountains to come down, those who are in exile to return and for those who want to take part in politics to be given the opportunity to do. This last stage is the normalization stage.
Zübeyir Aydar pointed out that according the preliminary planning “the first stage was to be completed by June, and second phase completed by Spring 2013. So by now both phases should have been completed and by which time we would be on third stage”. But in reality, the Turkish parliament did not make the necessary proposals to facilitate the peace process and several agreements are still not fulfilled.
Mr. Aydar presented the current Kurdish demands in order to progress in the peace process:
1. Thus far the process commenced via a dialog. However this cannot go ahead one sided. Just like there are laws for wars, there needs to be laws created to pave the way to peace. For this to happen, the parliament needs to create a legal base for this to happen.
2. In order for Ocalan to contribute to peace process, his health, freedom and safety conditions to be addressed.
3. Thus far the process reached blockages and did not progress as planned. Therefore in order to ensure that conditions set and timetable are adhered to, there needs to be a third observer commission formed to follow this process.
4. Turkey to stop attacks on the Kurds in Syria and not to support groups who are persecuting Kurds in Syria.
Chief of Executive Body of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) Political Bureau Mala Bakhtiyar underlined that Kurdish people have always been victims of their neighbouring countries. He called on Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria to respect the fundamental rights of Kurdish people instead of continuing the blind extreme policy. Our oil, gas, natural resources is for peace and stability in the Middle East, not for any kind of aggressions as our neighbors and he referred that the annual trade with the neighboring Turkey and Kurdistan Region (KRG) has already reached over 12 billion USD.
Mr. Bakhtiyar praised Kurdish democracy and freedom, pointing out that they are more progressive than in any other countries in the region as the international foundations admitted. According PUK Chief, the risk arising from Kurdistan’s neighbors is they seek to forcibly impose their own nationalistic-religious states. It is more risky when they have imposed as such and combine religion along with nationhood and power. This is the image of all Middle Eastern countries.
Mala Bakhtiyar underlined the responsibility of the international community for the successful conclusion of the peace process in Turkey and the release of Ocalan, as well as for the international recognition of the self-rule of Rojava in Syria.
Hemen Hawrami, member of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Leadership Council and Head of its Foreign Relations Office told that his party and President Mesud Barzani are supporting fully the peace process in Turkey. Therefore President paid a visit to the Kurdish Northern capital Amed where he met Turkish PM Erdogan and Kurdish leading politicians. Hawrami also said that President Barzani and KRG are working hard to unify all Kurds for a common national democratic strategy.
Gültan Kışanak, BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) Co-chair also pointed out “Europe’s historical responsibilities regarding the problems and tragedies suffered by Kurds. It is a requirement of this responsibility for Europe to play a positive part for the achievement of a solution”.
According Kışanak, a solution to the Kurdish issue could only be achieved by initiating a process in which the Kurdish people and other minorities in Turkey can attain their rights and freedoms: “The centralist Turkish republic is a state which resorts to assimilation and unlawful methods and unrecognizes universal legal norms. If we are meant to talk about normalisation, it is the state that should go through this process first”.
BDP co-chair pointed out that for the continuation of the process, the Turkish state should enlarge the format of the ongoing talks with Öcalan, providing the Kurdish leader with the opportunity to contact KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) and take some urgent positive steps such as coming up with a solution to the ill prisoners issue that has become a human tragedy.
PYD Co-Chairman Salih Muslem, on behalf of the Kurdish people in Rojava (West part of Kurdistan), he thanked the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and all those who have granted Kurds the opportunity their voice to be heard in the European Parliament. Muslim repeated once again a good neighbouring policy with Turkey, but he call Ankara to stop all kind of support to the Islamic terrorist groups linked to Al Qaida. Mr. Salih defended their policy in Rojava, he warned Turkish government that peace in Turkey and situation in Rojava is connected. PYD Leader asked support and international recognition of the newly established self administration in Rojava.
The Co-chairman of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Ertuğrul Kürkçü: The new process initiated by Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan had created ‘a brand new climate. It is the duty of the international community to support whoever is in favour of peace. We must realise that this process cannot continue without the positive contributions of the international community. It is also essential as regards a solution in Turkey that the international community adopt a pro-freedom stance on developments in the other parts of Kurdistan.A third party is needed in the resolution process. Kurkcu also called Turkey to stop its support to the Al Qaida terrrorist organisations and stop threating Rojava (West part of Kurdistan – Syria).
Members of the Wise people Commission (established by the Turkish Government) Prof. Hüseyin Yayman, Prof. Dogu Ergil, Turkey’s leading journalists as Hasan Cemal and Amberin Zaman also supported the peace process between Kurds and the Turkish government and they underlined the importance of continuation of talks but urged to speed up the process.