Turkey discussing disarmament with PKK leader

31 December 2012 / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS, İSTANBUL– Turkey has begun discussing disarmament with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) through talks with the jailed leader of the organization, the chief advisor to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday.

The government had been in talks in recent months with Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s jailed leader, to end a hunger strike by PKK members who were in jail, but Monday’s comment was the first confirmation that attempts to negotiate a wider peace settlement were on the agenda in a bid to end the 28-year-old armed struggle which proved that neither side could win an outright military victory.

“The main aim for the government is to disarm them. You cannot get results and abolish an organization through armed struggle alone,” Yalçın Akdoğan said in an interview with NTV.

Last week Erdoğan confirmed news reports that the government had revived a new round of talks with Öcalan to end the decades-old fight.While acknowledging that it is unlikely to defeat the PKK militarily, Akdoğan emphasized the same is also true for the terrorist organization.

He said the government is cautious about the prospects for progress. “We have to see how Kandil [the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq] will react. … The organization [PKK] also saw that it cannot get anywhere by waging an armed struggle.”

According to Akdoğan, 2012 was a disaster for the PKK, which aimed to start a “Kurdish Spring” and bring clashes into cities but utterly failed to do so.

“The organization [PKK] announced 2012 as the year of victory, but it plainly became a disaster. It mobilized all its resources to fulfill its objective: to establish field control in rural areas and to push people into the streets for a revolutionary people’s war,” he said.

He also said 1,450 terrorists were killed over the past year. Akdoğan stressed that the improved coordination and cooperation among security institutions boosts the armed forces’ capabilities on the ground.

Akdoğan said Öcalan is still a key actor in settling the Kurdish question. Öcalan retains his influence over the organization, though there are strong signs that the leadership in the Kandil Mountains has challenged his rule on numerous occasions. When he gave the order through his brother in November to end a 68-day hunger strike hundreds of PKK militants in prisons across Turkey were participating in, it was obeyed immediately. Negotiations with a group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.But Erdoğan for his part is under pressure to stem the violence, which has included Kurdish bomb attacks in major cities as well as fighting in the mountainous Southeast. Akdoğan said 10 terrorists had been killed in fighting in southeast Turkey on Monday. Erdoğan’s government has widened cultural and language rights for Kurds, who make up around 20 percent of Turkey’s 75 million population, since taking power a decade ago. But Kurdish politicians want greater political reform, including steps towards autonomy for their region.