Turkish Deputy PM: PKK is Acting Responsibly in Peace Process

MUTLU CIVIROGLU  – Rudaw  -16.6.2013 – WASHINGTON DC – Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay praised the peaceful manner in which the Kurdistan Workers Party has been withdrawing fighters out of Turkey, and cautioned that Ankara’s peace process with the PKK was based on trust, not a written agreement.

“The peace process is going well. Members of the terrorist organization are withdrawing out of the country. There was no single terrorist incident in the last six months,” said Atalay, whose Justice and Development Party (AKP) is involved in a landmark peace process to end three decades of bloody conflict with the PKK.

For over a month the PKK has been transferring fighters from Turkey into its Qandil Mountain base in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region following orders from Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s top leader who has negotiating the peace process from his jail cell on Turkey’s Imrali Island.

Atalay, speaking at the Annual Turkey Conference of the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, also claimed that his party had gained the trust of Turkey’s Kurds by implementing important changes, such as removing a ban on the Kurdish language. “We have a Kurdish population. One of the most important problems was that our people of Kurdish origin were not allowed to speak their mother tongue,” Atalay said. He said the government had first allowed Kurdish language courses, then radio and TV broadcasting in Kurdish. He noted that during the current academic year, Kurdish students were allowed classes in their mother tongue at public schools.

“For all that we did, we won the hearts of our Kurdish citizens,” Atalay claimed. “We are the party that received the most votes from Kurds. We have around 60 MPs of Kurdish origin and some ministers,” he added. Atalay said that both his party and the government were engaged in talks with the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which he described as the political party of the PKK.

Speaking about the nature of the peace process, Atalay claimed that the process is based on mutual trust and an honest mechanism. He emphasized that his government was trying hard not to shake that trust.

“In this process there is no written agreement or any given promises. First, terror will end, then the remaining problems will be solved through the political system and through dialogue,” he said. Atalay also criticized police handling of anti-government protests in Turkey, and said that the demonstrations should not be likened to the “Arab Spring” uprisings, which have toppled several Arab dictators since 2011. “Our government is a democratically elected one, and we still have a strong support from the people,” he claimed.

Atalay criticized police, who have used teargas and water cannon during two weeks of protests in Istanbul and Ankara which began over government plans to demolish a public park. He claimed the opposition was trying to use the protests to weaken his ruling party and reverse 10 years of progress.