Uncertainty dominates new İmralı talks as delegation in limbo


1 February 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA – Prospects of a second series of talks between state authorities and the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) became uncertain after a top Kurdish lawmaker denied media reports that a delegation of Kurdish politicians who will visit the PKK leader has been finalized.

Some Turkish newspapers reported on Friday that the second delegation of Kurdish politicians who will visit terrorist leader Abdullah Öcalan will include Ahmet Türk, Ayla Akat and Sırrı Sakık. The newspapers did not indicate when the three are planning to visit Öcalan, who has been imprisoned on İmralı Island since 1999. According to reports, the visit will mark the beginning of a second round of talks between the Turkish state and Öcalan, which are aimed at brokering a deal with the PKK for the disarming of the terrorist group. The government confirmed the first round of talks at the beginning of this year. The talks with Öcalan are being carried out by National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan. Some Kurdish politicians are also involved in the talks. Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş denied the news reports about the delegation via a statement posted on his Twitter account on Friday morning. He said the reports do not reflect the truth. “We request that you not pay heed to such reports unless confirmed by our political party. Reports about a delegation going to İmralı to hold talks with Öcalan are completely groundless. There is no such information sent to our party [about the delegation],” read Demirtaş’s statement.

Also on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said the “peace talks” between the state and the PKK leader are progressing “efficiently.” However, he did not respond to a question asking if the news reports about the new delegation of Kurdish politicians to visit İmralı are true.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, has waged a bloody campaign for self-rule in predominantly Kurdish southeast Anatolia since 1984. More than 40,000 people, including civilians and security forces, have been killed in clashes with the terrorist group.

Öcalan, imprisoned on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara south of İstanbul since his capture in 1999, has significant influence among PKK members and supporters. The Turkish state believes that talks with the terrorist head may lead to a timetable for the withdrawal of PKK terrorists from Turkey and their eventual disarmament.

There are also claims that Demirtaş is trying to put pressure on state authorities to include him and other co-chairpersons of the BDP in the peace talks. Demirtaş made public remarks last month that BDP chairpersons should also be allowed to meet with Öcalan as mediators as part of the peace process.

Turkish authorities have so far held three rounds of talks with the PKK. The most recent effort was in Oslo when Fidan headed a MİT delegation in 2010. The talks were ineffective and were interrupted in July 2011 when the PKK staged a fatal attack in Silvan, Diyarbakır. Talks were re-launched two months ago — although this was revealed to the public only recently — when the government determined that the jailed PKK leader still has power over the organization’s supporters, as a call from him made to Kurdish prisoners who were on a collective hunger strike was enough to end the protest. However, some experts have expressed doubt that PKK commanders fighting in the mountains will obey Öcalan when it comes to laying down their weapons. The BDP is opposed to the notion of Öcalan as the sole interlocutor in the pace talks by the Turkish state. Demirtaş said earlier this week that the state should also recognize the BDP and PKK leaders in the Kandil Mountains as interlocutors. The BDP, in addition, believes that state authorities should hold talks with officials of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) — known alternatively as the PKK’s urban arm — as part of the peace process.