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AKP seeks to 'legalize' PKK peace talks

Turkey’s ruling party has drafted a bill that puts the peace process with the PKK in a legal framework, which is also seen as a means for the AKP to win Kurdish support in the August presidential elections.
Kurdish demonstrators hold flags with portraits of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg February 16, 2012, in support of Ocalan, who was captured on February 15, 1999, and is currently serving a life sentence in Turkey.  REUTERS/Vincent Kessler (FRANCE - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR2XXY4
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In a major step to remove the climate of mistrust in the Kurdish peace process, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has submitted to parliament a draft bill designed to secure legally the negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The bill — called “Law to End Terrorism and Strengthen National Togetherness” — aims to create a legal shield for the direct and indirect talks the state has been holding with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan on the prison island of Imrali and senior members of the PKK and the PKK-linked Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), based in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains and Europe. With the PKK listed as a terrorist organization, the talks can be easily classified as a criminal activity under Turkey’s existing law. On the state’s behalf, the talks are being conducted by the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), while senior members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the People's Democracy Party (HDP) have acted as intermediaries on the Kurdish side.

A couple of years ago, prosecutors had launched an investigation into MIT officials over several rounds of talks with the PKK held in Oslo in 2009, which prompted the government to pass legislation that conditioned investigations against the MIT chief on the prime minister’s permission, thus providing legal protection for the state wing in the talks. Ocalan and the BDP-HDP delegation, for their part, had long called for a “legal framework” to keep the process on track.

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