ANKARA, Turkey — Ahead of the June 7 elections last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put the Kurdish settlement process on hold. Then, addressing a rally in Istanbul in September, he said, “Turkey has no Kurdish problem. Are the Kurds the only ones who have problems? The Lazes, the Circassians have problems too.” As recently as Jan. 6, Erdogan stood his ground. “Turkey has no Kurdish problem, but a terror problem. No one should try to palm it off on us as a Kurdish problem,” he said, referring to the rekindled conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The president seemed to have utterly forgotten his landmark speech of 2005, when he told a big crowd in Diyarbakir, the hub of the Kurdish-majority southeast, that “the Kurdish problem is my problem” and promised to resolve it.
But then, on Jan. 20, he again spoke of a “solution.” This time, however, he seemed to have a different model on his mind, as he ruled out any dialogue with the PKK and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the principal political body of Turkey’s Kurds, which Ankara accuses of collaborating with the PKK insurgency. “In the upcoming period, neither the separatist terrorist organization nor the party and other structures under its guidance will be recognized as interlocutors. That business is over. With all their organizations, parliament members and mayors, they will answer for their deeds before the courts,” Erdogan said. “And we, together with our people, will put the region back on its feet. Once our security forces purge the region of the terrorists and restore public order, we’ll sit down with our [Kurdish] people and citizens to decide how a thorough solution to the problem can be achieved and will then put it into practice.”