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Turkey's Failed PKK Policy

By continuing to engage PKK Leader Abdulla Ocalan, the government of Prime Minister Erdogan has failed in both its efforts to combat PKK terrorism and to resolve broader issues about Kurdish rights in Turkey, writes Tulin Daloglu.
Riot police surround pro-Kurdish demonstrators to prevent them from marching, at Taksim square in central Istanbul February 15, 2012. Supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) held a protest to mark the 13th anniversary of the capture of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan. REUTERS/Murad Sezer (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

The government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs to face its failure to date in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK).

Since Turkey jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, the state has been using him as a kind of interlocutor to combat Kurdish separatists and terrorists. Despite his imprisonment, Ocalan has oddly remained in the headlines, commenting on how to address the PKK and the broader subject of Kurdish nationalism.

Turkey’s strategy has been to keep Ocalan engaged so as not to allow the PKK to reorganize under a new leader. That way, Ankara seems to believe, the PKK would weaken and break, and eventually dissolve.

With this approach, Turkey has succeeded only in making itself more vulnerable to PKK demands, and therefore has allowed the PKK to take a greater role in speaking on behalf of the Kurdish population in Turkey, as well as a role for itself in both Syria and Iraq.

The bottom line is that this approach has failed Turkey, and it is time to change course. 

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