NORTHERN KURDISTAN: RUMOURS OF PEACE (TALKS)?

NORTHERN KURDISTAN:  RUMOURS OF PEACE (TALKS)?

February 2017: Following the late night 45-minute phone call on February 7th between U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, CIA director, Mike Pompeo was in Ankara two days later for a short visit. “All eyes on Pompeo as CIA chief arrives in Ankara” Washington based Al-Monitor headlines read…

Despite Turkey’s concerns around U.S. support for the Kurds, both in Rojava and Northern Kurdistan, following the meeting Ahu Özyurt, writing in the Hürriyet Daily News (the English-language daily in Turkey), February 15th:

“İlnur Çevik, a former journalist and currently advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Turkey may start looking at the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) from a different perspective. He even cited the example of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (KRG) and Massoud Barzani’s relations with Ankara. ‘Why shouldn’t the PYD be like Barzani?’ Çevik told the New York Times.”

This is the same Çevik that in April 2016 in interview said “The PKK is clearly losing ground, Erdoğan is determined to continue weeding out the PKK everywhere in Turkey and finishing off the PKK once and for all.”

Of more interest (from the point of view of the suffering endured by the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan) Özyurt also writes: Cevat Öneş, a former Deputy Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), has stressed the need to revive the Kurdish peace talks inside Turkey as soon as possible due to the fast-changing facts on the war theater.

‘It is time to rethink and restart the democratic solution process right now,’ Öneş said last week in an interview with me on CNN Türk. ‘And this should be kept away from the daily discussions of referendum.'”

The recent successes of PKK-Kurdistan Workers’ Party ‘allies’ in Rojava/Syria, the PYD (Democratic Union Party \ Kurdish: Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat), the YPG (People’s Protection Units \ Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Gel) and the YPJ (Women’s Defense Units \ Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Jin)‎, which has attracted both U.S. support as well as resources and military aid, may contribute once more to reshaping Erdoğan‘s agenda which has been one of bloody conquest and murder for the Kurds since the collapse of the previous peace talks with the PKK in July 2015.

In June 2016 the Washington Post carried the banner: Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria as Kurdish forces supported by U.S. air strikes and the other participants in the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) launched their offensive on Manbij that recaptured the town in the Aleppo province.

However with a significant number of Kurdish politicians including Selahattin Demirtaş, HDP – (The Peoples’ Democratic Party, Turkish: Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP), Kurdish: Partiya Demokratîk a Gelan) – co-chair in jail along with co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ – (10 other national deputies are also currently in prison awaiting trial and in the regions: “after close to 9,000 detentions, some 2,800 HDP members remain behind bars awaiting trial. Seventy-four DBP mayors have been imprisoned, while public servants have been appointed as trustees to run 61 of the party’s local administrations.” Al-Monitor, February 17, 2017) – and with little prospect of Erdoğan or his AK Party wanting to create space for them in the future, Özyurt nevertheless refers to Meral Akşener, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy and a former interior minister as well as currently being the leader of the “No” campaign who:

“…has hinted a couple of times that there are talks going on between İmrali (the island where Öcalan is held) and Ankara. No official has denied her claims that there is an overture for a possible re-start of talks. That has to come with a price though, and that is probably a boycott by HDP voters during the referendum. A missing 10 million votes would be the dream gift for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to win the vote for the presidential system, and even opening the door for a possible amnesty.

Re-energizing the Kurdish peace talks would be something that everyone could vote “Yes” for. But trading it for a negotiation process and holding the Kurdish vote hostage to one’s prison terms is another thing entirely…” Özyurt concludes.

Mention of Öcalan may be significant as he brokered the last peace talks in 2012 with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Despite ongoing worldwide protests for his release from solitary confinement in the maximum security prison on İmrali Island, this being the 18th anniversary of the arrest of the PKK leader on February 15, 1999; who can now only be visited with special permits, and from whom little has been heard in recent times. Since the failed coup last year reports have also appeared online that there was a suspected conspiracy to assassinate him. In December 2016, the Firat News Agency (ANF), carried a statement from PKK leader Murat Karayilan who said the “Battalion of Immortals,” which is in the form of sleeper cells, may be “activated” if the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan’s life was threatened.

“The alleged threat on Öcalan’s life was voiced by the PKK’s Europe executive Zübeyir Aydar during the “Turkey, The Kurds and the war in the Middle East” section of the 13th International Conference at the European Parliament. Aydar, who has long been sought by Turkey with repeated requests of extradition from European countries, claimed that circles linked to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are discussing ways to “remove” Öcalan.” (Daily Sabah, 19 December, 2016)

As a result of the full scale Turkish military assault on the Kurdish areas of the southeastern Anatolia region and the now-almost-permanent imposition of curfews over its towns and neighbourhoods since July 2015, civilian casualties have mounted amid reports and video footage of artillery bombardments of civilian areas and extensive human rights abuses that have managed to filter through the Turkish blockade with news of atrocity and massive displacement and destruction of people’s homes as well as the local economy…

The failed peace talks (called the Solution Process – Çözüm Süreci) were made public on 28 December, 2012, when, in a television interview then Prime Minister Erdoğan said that the government was conducting negotiations with jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. For over 2 years the negotiations survived numerous events that were regarded as sabotage to derail them, including the assassination of Sakine Cansiz (one of the co-founders of the PKK) and two colleagues in Paris as well as the bombings of the Justice Ministry of Turkey and Erdoğan’s office at the AK Party headquarters in Ankara. On the 21 March 2013, after months of negotiations with the Turkish Government, Abdullah Ocalan’s letter to the people was read both in Turkish and Kurdish during Nowruz celebrations in Diyarbakir. The letter called for a cease-fire that included the withdrawal of PKK fighters from Turkish soil and called an end to armed struggle. This was followed shortly after by the withdrawal of the PKK militants across the border into Iraq. Overtaken by events in the region, this situation was not to last, however.

Al-Monitor, following the CIA Director’s visit to Ankara outlined Turkey’s current agenda:

“Turkey will likely press its case against the YPG with evidence of the group’s links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting for Kurdish autonomy inside Turkey. The PKK, classified as a terror group by the State Department, has carried its battle to urban centers, killing scores of policemen and civilians. Turkey has responded by leveling entire neighborhoods in the mainly Kurdish southeast and killing civilians as well, rights groups allege. In a bid to capitalize on Trump’s hard line on Iran, Ankara is also likely to repeat allegations of collusion between the PKK, the YPG and the Iranian regime.”

Abdullah Öcalan has continued to urge for a return to the peace process. Following the recent visit with his brother on Imrali Island Öcalan is reported to have said:

“This is not a war that one side can win. It’s time for the bloodshed and tears to end….We have projects. If the state is ready for these projects, we can realize these projects in six months. We did not terminate that process. The Kurdish Question is a heavy question. It is not a 20, 40 years of a problem, but a 100, 200 years-old one…”

It is estimated that between 1984 and 2016 the war against the PKK has cost Turkey about $400 billion, according to government estimates, as well as leaving tens of thousands dead and even more civilians displaced.

United Press International (UPI) also reported on Turkey’s ongoing military strategy on the 18th February: ‘Turkish President Erdoğan eyes Kurdish town in Syria’:

“Turkey, however, takes a very different view of the Kurds and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday after Turkish forces finish securing the Islamic State-controlled border town of al-Bab in Syria, they would advance their campaign to the city of Manbij, which has been under Kurdish control for more than a year after Kurdish fighters liberated it from the Islamic State.”

Abdullah Öcalan: “He (Abdullah Öcalan) said that if the state is ready for this project, we can finish it in six months and that the previous (peace) process has not been completely wiped out…This is not a war that one side can win. It’s time for the bloodshed and tears to end, he said.” (Mehmet Öcalan, brother of Abdullah Öcalan calling for a return to a political solution in the ongoing conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish groups, in Diyarbakır on September 12, 2016.)

Peace with justice has never been more needed. We can only hope that Ahu Özyurt’s suspicions will prove correct. Despite the lack of confirmation that these developments are either accurate or supported in reality or if accurate in their detail will produce results in an arena where bloodshed and brutality has become common currency. Likewise, talks or rather, whispers, of peace will have to survive the machiavellian complexities of the region with its many participants and volatile agendas which could continue to guarantee that ‘the only friends the Kurds have are the mountains‘..

séamas carraher

Sources & References (thanks to)

Image: (Fair Use)

From: Kerim Yildiz, The Kurds in Syria: The Forgotten People, Pluto Press, 2005

Reference:

A new momentum for Kurdish talks?

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/a-new-momentum-for-kurdish-talks.aspx?pageID=449&nID=109749&NewsCatID=515

http://eng.majalla.com/author/ahu-ozyurt

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/09/cia-chief-mike-pompeo-turkey-syria-isis

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/cia-director-pompeo-arrives-turkey.html

http://aranews.net/2017/02/cia-chief-visits-turkey-discuss-kurds-gulen-isis/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/us-backs-kurds-in-drive-against-isis-in-syria-despite-turkish-objections/2016/06/01/7bacf6fa-2808-11e6-8329-6104954928d2_story.html?utm_term=.2bc3aa4d4e43

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/turkey-crackdown-on-kurdish-political-parties.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-27/turkey-peace-talks-off-table-in-all-out-war-on-pkk-aide-says

https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2016/12/19/pkk-leader-karayilan-threatens-turkish-politicians-with-suicide-bombings-assasinations

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/brother-of-jailed-pkk-leader-visits-imrali-island-for-eid-meeting.aspx?pageID=238&nID=103803&NewsCatID=341

https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2016/09/12/imprisoned-pkk-leader-ocalan-meets-brother-demands-return-to-political-solution-in-message

Ocalan visits: http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/turkey/17022017

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2017/02/18/Turkish-President-Erdogan-eyes-Kurdish-town-in-Syria/2011487455956/

Sakine Cansiz (Sara)

http://www.globalrights.info/2017/01/the-murder-of-sakine-fidan-and-leyla-many-questions-to-answer/

http://www.globalrights.info/2017/01/sakine-fidan-and-leyla/

http://www.globalrights.info/2017/01/75743/

Video: Ruptly TV, September 12, 2016,

Turkey: Brother of PKK leader Ocalan calls for return to political solution

“Mehmet Ocalan, Brother of Abdullah Ocalan – leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK): “We don’t have problems here, but projects. If the government is ready for these projects we can finish this problem in six months. We didn’t terminate the previous peace process. The Kurdish problem is a hundred – maybe two hundred – years old. If the government was sincere this problem could have been solved. Every day at least thirty people lose their lives. This land doesn’t deserve this. Men with a conscience should think about it. If the government is ready, they can send two of their men here. Yes, this is a heavy problem, but our projects to end this problem are ready. We can finish this problem in six months. This is a blind war. This is a war that nobody can win. It has continued for the past 30-40 years and it will keep going. This problem cannot be solved by the effort of one side only. The biggest side in this case is the government. If the government is willing to solve it, this problem wouldn’t last long. It would be solved.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-kurds-ocalan-idUSKCN11I1GQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbuEOvUaMFM

Video: Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2016

Residents of Cizre, Turkey Return to a City in Ruins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cva811QqN4M


Tags assigned to this article:
Abdullah OcalanKurdistanPKKTopTurkey

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