Turkey gets IRA lessons for PKK talks

ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News – 2.2.2013 – Hoping to benefit from the UK’s experience in ending the armed conflict with IRA, a senior official will visit London next week in a first attempt by Ankara to get in touch with a foreign country.

Turkey hopes to benefit from the United Kingdom’s experience in ending the armed conflict in Northern Ireland through years-long negotiations with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in its own peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Mehmet Ulvi Saran, undersecretary for public order and security, will visit London next week to meet a number of former and current government officials to get first-hand information about the British peace process. “We will share learned lessons from our own experience,” a British source told the Hürriyet Daily News Feb. 1. Saran will meet with his counterparts at the British Home Office as well as other security officials, including the national security adviser. His program also includes a meeting with Jonathan Powell, a key right-hand man of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had played a crucial role in the Northern Ireland peace talks. Serving as the key man in reaching the Good Friday Agreement, Powell collected his experiences during the peace talks in a book titled “Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland” in which he detailed the pace of the negotiations.

The agreement was only possible following 13 years of tough political negotiations between the British governments and the IRA.

The Turkish government launched a new campaign to end violent terrorism in Turkey through dialogue with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, who has been serving a life sentence on İmralı island in the Marmara Sea since 1999. Two senior Kurdish politicians, Ahmet Türk and Ayla Akat Ata, met Öcalan on Jan. 3 in an important visit marking the start of the process. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the talks a “peace process” in one of his speeches although it is generally called the İmralı Process.

Apart from Öcalan, the process includes the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) as an important actor to reach the ultimate purpose of disarming the PKK and solving the decades-long Kurdish question. Saran’s visit is a first attempt by the Turkish government to get in touch with a foreign country as part of its bid to solve the problem. Sources underlined that the visit was not an effort to seek cooperation but was aiming to get information from figures like Powell who had carried out similar talks with outlawed groups. The office Saran chairs was established in 2010 to serve as a key security unit with the task of collecting intelligence provided from various security institutions and to assess them adequately. It’s also producing new policies to deal with terrorism and its root causes.

PKK’s activities on the agenda

The agenda of Saran is also expected to include Turkish-British cooperation on the joint fight against terrorism. Although the PKK is not very active in the U.K. compared to some other European countries, a significant amount of money is being raised in the country. Mutual efforts by both countries have led to a significant decrease in the money the PKK raises in the U.K.