THE APO FACTOR : Gov’t highlights Öcalan’s role in dialogue with PKK

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 2.1.2013 – Imprisoned Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Öcalan is critical to any dialogue process that seeks to convince his Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to lay down its arms, a senior adviser to the premier has said. “Abdullah Öcalan is still the most important actor for a resolution. We know that the organization frustrated him, used his name and benefited from his name from time to time,” Yalçın Akdoğan said in an interview with NTV news channel on Dec. 31, 2012.

The comment comes days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made public on Dec. 28, 2012, that intelligence agents were meeting with Öcalan. “He has been in prison for a long time, and it is not possible for him to effectively command the organization. But he is an important tool within the emotional body of the organization,” said Akdoğan.

Akdoğan is also a deputy for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, meanwhile, welcomed Erdoğan’s public acknowledgement of the talks. “It is a very important step taken toward telling the truth to people. When we talked earlier about similar things, we faced very tough accusations. This means that telling the truth to people is always beautiful,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters on Dec. 31, 2012.

“I cannot hold such meetings myself as a politician, but the state has agents and they do [hold talks]. The meetings on [the İmralı prison island] are still under way because we must get a result. As long as we see a light [at the end of the tunnel], we will continue to take steps. If there is no light, we will stop there,” Erdoğan said last week.

Media reports following Erdoğan’s statement claimed that the fresh talks with Öcalan aimed to determine a timetable for the PKK to release a declaration to lay down arms within few months. Accordingly, if the target is achieved, the PKK, which has halted operations due to winter conditions, would ostensibly begin to disarm in the spring.

“These kinds of issues should be approached with cautious optimism. We will be realistic, will continue processes with good intentions and will exert a sincere effort to get a result,” Akdoğan said. “People should not be left without hope, but their hopes should not be played with either. There is a serious effort, but I don’t think that it is correct to say ‘a result will be out within three to five months.’ We don’t know the content of the meetings.”