Turkish Opposition Party Criticizes Kurdish Initiative

Turkish opposition leaders claim Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan lack transparency and a clear endgame, writes Tulin Daloglu.

al-monitor A pro-Kurdish demonstrator covers her face as riot police prevent protestors from marching at Taksim Square in central Istanbul in 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

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turkey, regional politics in the middle east, kurds

Jan 29, 2013

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters in Ankara on Jan. 23 that the new peace process with Kurdish nationalists “is being handled as transparent as possible.” According to Turkey’s main opposition, however, there is nothing at all “transparent” about this process.

“No one briefed us about these talks with [imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah] Ocalan. So how could these talks be transparent?” asked Faruk Logoglu, deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main political opposition. During an extensive interview with Al-Monitor on Jan. 25, Logoglu stressed that the government needs to brief the parliament if it is sincere about a transparent process.

In this context, Logoglu mentioned CHP’s proposal to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in June 2012 concerning an approach for disarming the PKK as well as the Kurdish issue. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had complained at the time that the CHP had failed to offer anything concrete that could help end the bloodshed in the country. Logoglu countered, “The prime minister was right. We did not offer a solution. But we paved the way to reach a national consensus. We basically talked about establishing a mechanism where everyone that matters — in the parliament and outside — could contribute to the solution.”

Here Logoglu was referring to CHP's proposal to form a committee on societal consensus in the parliament as well as a council of “wise men” that would also include influential, non-elected representatives of the people with the ability to constructively affect the outcome of the talks. Logoglu stressed that he did not know Erdogan’s solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue.

“Clearly, there is no military solution to this issue. Therefore, the parliament is the only address at which to find a way to end the bloodshed in the country,” Logoglu told Al-Monitor. “What we say is clear though: Imrali [where Ocalan is serving a life sentence] cannot be considered a direct partner in finding a solution to the PKK or the Kurdish issue. The solution needs to be found at the parliament. The AKP is trying to design Turkey's future through talks with Ocalan.”

Logoglu was also curious as to how the prime minister planned to disarm the PKK. “There have to be clear guidelines for both sides to achieve a consensus. It's only the PKK that knows whether they will disarm or not,” said Logoglu. “When the prime minister says the Turkish military’s armed struggle with the PKK will continue until their attacks come to an end, this is not bravery. This fight has been going on since 1984. But because this new process does not seem to aim at a clear conclusion, its failure carries a potential to make things even worse for Turkey.”

Logoglu expressed concern that this new round of peace talks, which began in late 2012, will also not bring success, as was the case with the AKP's previous efforts. “They have done some good things, but they seem to take ad hoc steps without a clear strategy where we can all measure their success on a probable timeline.”

As a retired career diplomat, Logoglu takes a bird’s eye view of the developments on Turkey's borders, including of course those with Iraq and Syria, where the region's Kurdish population lives. “When the prime minister says, ‘Where the Kurdish issue stands today is not where it used to be in the past,’ he is basically arguing that Turkey can solve this issue on its own by making an effort to correct its past mistakes,” Logoglu argued. “But what makes today's Kurdish issue difficult is the new emerging dynamics in the region. And that not only complicates Turkey's efforts in finding a peaceful closure to this dilemma, but also significantly shrinks the timeline for Turkey to find a solution.”

“There is now a regional Kurdish issue, and all the Kurdish populations in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey are interacting with each other. The Kurdish populations' expectations for a solution are now higher than their past desires,” Logoglu said. “Nechirvan Barzani [prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government] was asked in a recent interview whether he thinks about independence. He replied that it is not the time yet, but they need to first enhance their economic independence.”

“While it's not clear how the Syrian crisis will be resolved, there is now without a doubt a Kurdish strip that borders Turkey from Iraq to Syria. Maybe it won't be possible in time to prevent Kurds from seeking independence. The Turkish foreign minister does not seem to be aware of this new trend.”

Tulin Daloglu is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. She has written extensively for various Turkish and American publications, including The New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneThe Middle East TimesForeign PolicyThe Daily Star (Lebanon) and the SAIS Turkey Analyst Report. She also had a regular column at The Washington Times for almost four years. She tweets from @TurkeyPulse.

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