Turkish PM signals talks with PKK possible

ISTANBUL – Reuters – 27.9.2012 – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan signalled that new talks between the state and outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) might be possible as his government faces an upsurge in violence in the country’s southeast.

Turkish intelligence officials have maintained contact with senior figures from PKK in recent years to try to end a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, but discussions have broken down. “Regarding İmralı, there could be more talks,” Erdoğan said in a televised interview with broadcaster Kanal 7 yesterday, referring to the island south of Istanbul where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned.

“There is a military dimension to this, a security dimension which is separate and will continue. But beside this there is a diplomatic, socio-economic and psychological dimension,” he said. Erdoğan spoke after Turkey’s Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) called for the resumption of talks between the state and the PKK to prevent a further escalation of violence.

Clashes in recent months between Turkey’s armed forces and militants from the PKK – considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and European Union – have been among the heaviest since the group took up arms 28 years ago. Ankara has also linked the surge in violence to the unrest in neighbouring Syria. Erdoğan has accused President Bashar al-Assad of arming the PKK militants, and raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria if the PKK were to launch attacks from Syrian soil.

The head of Turkey’s armed forces said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday the military also had the capability to launch a sustained operation against the PKK in northern Iraq. Erdoğan gave the interview days before his ruling AK Party’s congress where he is expected to set out the party’s future as it goes through its biggest overhaul since coming to power a decade ago. Since elections in June 2011, the conflict with the PKK has killed more than 700 people, according to the International Crisis Group, the highest toll in a 15-month period since Öcalan was captured and jailed in 1999.