Kurdish bid at new level as ‘wise’ mission over / Four members absent

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – 27.6.2013 – The bid to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue has moved into a ‘second stage,’ with concrete steps now expected of the government. The group of Wise Persons, which was gathered by the government as part of the recent bid to find a solution to the Kurdish issue, submitted their final reports to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul on June 26.

The 63 members were divided into seven separate regions of the country, and had traveled 122,000 kilometers across the country to listen and talk about the peace process over the course of about three months.

In total, they visited all of Turkey’s 81 provinces, including 37 towns and 22 villages, where they officially met with more than 60,000 people.

The meeting came at a time when the agenda of the process is turning its focus to the second phase, which basically refers to the steps that now have to be taken by the government.Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik said at a press conference on the sidelines of the Wise Persons meeting that the reports, which included both the observations of the groups and the “concerns, fears, dreams and hopes” of people across the country.

The Wise Persons’ efforts have eased the concerns of many people however some with ideological concerns and opponents of the AKP remained critical, Çelik said, adding that the seven reports would be consolidated before being published.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who has taken active role in the talks to solve the issue, said the second phase in the process had begun. The government is soon expected to reveal a roadmap for this second phase, Demirtaş said. “I hope this roadmap will lead to permanent democracy,” he said, speaking at a Diyarbakır meeting yesterday.

The first phase of the process was briefed as being the withdrawal of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants to northern Iraq from Turkey. Criticizing the tone of recent statements made by government officials, Demirtaş said the process had been “infected” over the last two weeks. He said the government’s hard stance against the Gezi Park protests had spread across the country.

“However, this does not mean that the process is over or blocked,” he said.

“In the second phase, the channels for democratic politics will be opened. It is not a phase that will solve problems 100 percent,” Demirtaş added.

The BDP co-chair’s remarks echoed a statement from jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan a day earlier, who also said the process had now arrived at its second phase.

Deputy prime ministers Beşir Atalay and Bekir Bozdağ, a number of Cabinet ministers, and other high ranking officials, also accompanied Erdoğan at the Wise Persons meeting. Four members of the group were missing after two academics, Murat Belge and Baskın Oran, resigned a day earlier, and two others declared excuses.

Speaking to journalists ahead of the meeting, Ahmet Taşgetiren, the head of the Central Anatolia regional group of the Wise Persons, said the “wider picture” after the two-month long efforts of the group showed the peace process received “full support.”Taşgetiren also said before the meeting that the groups were scheduled to share photographs and videos with the prime minister.