Why a Third Party is missing in the Turkish-Kurdish Peace Process

By Dr Aland Mizell: Kurdistan Tribune – 1.4.2013 –  (……..)   We all hear that the PKK will lay down their arms, and that rebels will withdraw from Turkey, but we have not heard anything about what the government will do. The government may still call the PKK a terrorist group. It never solved the Uludere massacre in which Turkish jets bombed and killed thirty-four Kurdish people who were traveling back to their villages in Sirnak. Instead, the Turkish government released a report, saying that the attack was an “accident. “

We all know that making peace is difficult. There is ample evidence, however, that third-party involvement and facilitation are effective ways to make a peace process sustainable, so that both parties keep their pledges. We know each peace process contains its own complex and contextual particularities. We have seen this in Israel and Palestine, in Banda Ache, in the Philippines, and in Ireland.

According to Ambassador Thomas Greminger, the Head of the Political Affairs and Human Security for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreigner Affairs, a peace process can be divided into three phases: the pre-negotiation, the negotiation, and the implementation phases. In the pre-negotiation phase a third-party will try to build trust between each of the conflicting parties and attempt to understand their positions, demands, and interests. In the negotiation phase the parties are actually sitting at the table and talking with each other. At this point the parties work through the issues and then sign an agreement. In the implementation phase the agreement is then put into practice. That is the hardest phase, yet the most important part of the negotiation.

According to a study in the 90s, about 50% of all peace processes or agreements fail. In the years between 2000 and 2005, only 2 of the negotiated 17 peace agreement failed, because the success was mostly attributed to specific reasons; first, the third-party efforts were more substantive and more inclusive of various components of the society. The second reason is that greater international support was given to the negotiation and implementation phases of the peace process. However, third-party involvement in a peace process raises the question of trust and transparency because the Turkish government’s hegemonic power over the peace process and its control over the flow of information can manipulate the news and easily get what it wants, later blaming the lack of success in the implementation on the Kurds. To prevent this from happening, the process should have credible mediation.

The third-party intervention is the usual response to violent and persistent conflicts when parties involved are unable to manage their differences. The question is will Turkey and the PKK manage their differences? How can we be assured that both parties will obey the rules of the peace process and not break them?  The Turkish government does not welcome a third-party intervention because it sees it as interference in its domestic affairs. But, interestingly, Turkey will interfere in other states’ domestic affairs, such as in Iraq, Syria, etc. The participation of a third party gives a peace process more legitimacy and has contributed in many cases to the sustainability of the peace agreement as recent empirical research suggests. The involvement of a third party is valuable in not only bringing together conflicting parties to talk about peace and to break the deadlock, but also in seeing that every provision is implemented, not just for compliance but with the spirit of addressing the real causes of the Kurdish problem. This examination of the root causes helps to avoid a relapse in the conflict and to build and consolidate sustainable peace, as well as to monitor and guarantee the agreement.

The Turkish government easily can blame the Kurds after they get what they want as we saw in the example in previous agreements, in which the Turkish government promised that if the PKK lay down their arms, they would not be prosecuted, but when one group of the PKK rebels answered the call, came from the mountains, and were celebrated by the Kurdish people, the Turkish government blamed the Kurds and gave some petty reasons that people should not welcome the rebels or celebrate their coming from the mountains. For this kind of incident not to be repeated, the European community must act as referee to make both parties implement the plan and to set benchmarks to guide the Turkish government and the PKK in the agreement. At this point I do not know whether the goals of the peace process are realistic because we do not know what is going on, since the government is talking to only one person, one who has been in jail for more than thirteen years and has had no communication with the outside. The government has had total control of everything, such as whoever and whenever people can visit the PKK leader Ocalan, but what I know is that the only solution to the Kurdish problem is very simple: it must be genuine. I do not know if the government is genuine about ending the Kurdish problem because it has never been genuine. The Turkish government worked hard internationally to make sure that the Kurdish question was framed as a terrorism question, rather than social, political, economical, and human rights questions. Yet, whoever defends Kurdish rights is considered as a terrorist, and that is what has harmed the Kurdish cause internationally.

I believe that if the Kurdish question is to be solved, neither the Turks, Persian, or Arabs will solve it, but the pressure of the international community will solve it. If Kurds want to have power against a strong Turkish government, Kurds must win the support of the international community. Turkey is a member of NATO; therefore, the European Union and America are allies of Turkey, and consequently, a PKK member should not be anti-American nor against any international community. The Kurdish people should have worked hard to internationalize the Kurdish question, but that part has not developed or maybe they did not work hard enough.

I also believe the BDP party, instead of wasting so much energy and time protesting against the government, should develop more international relations outside of Turkey, especially in Europe and in the USA. Of course, the most important factor that will lead Kurds to victory is the unification of Kurds because as long as Kurds are unified and not used by Iran, Iraq, Turkey, or Syria, they have strength in numbers. Also, they will have victory in the new Greater Middle East Projects, because the Kurds consist of more than 40 million people in the Middle East region; that is more than half of Turkey’s 70 million population, more than half of the population of Iran, and more than each of the populations of Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Palestine. The Kurds should not be enemies of Iraq, Iran, or Syria, nor should they trust these countries either because Turkey is using the religious card in order not to leave an option for Kurds to do business. The Kurds should remember that Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey are all the same.

Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan insists that Turkey will not keep silent regarding the oppression that Syrian Turkmens suffer and urges Syrian Turkmen to take part in broad and inclusive platforms that can make their voices heard in a new post-Assad regime. Erdogan said, “Your problems are our problems.“  The number of Turkmen living in Syria now is not even more than two hundred thousand compared to the Kurdish population of more than one million living in Syria, but Syria lets less than two hundred thousand Turkmen be heard. And Erdogan says this minority’s problems are the Turks’ problem? What kind of justice is that? Who has given the right to Erdogan and Turkey to decide how Kurds should live?

I wonder if leaders of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) hear these statements from Ankara and will give some of their share of the oil to distribute to the Kurdish cause because only Kurds can solve the Kurdish sufferings.

Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to The Kurdistan Tribune, Kurdishaspect.com, Mindanao Times and Kurdish Media.