What Will Persuade PKK to Disarm?

Fikret Bila examines the different ways in which negotiations between the PKK and the Turkish government could result in the group abandoning its arms and terrorist attacks. 

al-monitor Demonstrators, holding a portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, walk past a burning mobile telephone relay station in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, March 18, 2012. Photo by REUTERS.

Topics covered

turkish-kurdish relations, turkish-iraqi relations, turkey, security, pkk, ocalan, negotiations, kurds, kurdistan workers' party (pkk), kurdistan, iraq

Dec 19, 2012

In a response to questions from Mustafa Kartoglu, the Ankara representative of Turkish newspaper Star, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay made some significant points. In the interview Star headlined “Negotiations will continue, terror will end,” Atalay, one of the leading architects of opening up to the Kurds, said that “both security operations and negotiations will continue.”

A short time ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a policy of “combating terrorism while negotiating with politics.” Erdogan’s words were interpreted as “combating the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and negotiating with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)."

When the Kurdish hunger strikes ended with a message from imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, the government changed its position, deciding that negotiating with Ocalan would be necessary to end the bloodshed and for the PKK to give up its arms. It was the duty of some state institutions (the National Intelligence Organization) to carry out such contacts, it was noted.

When I asked Prime Minister Erdogan about his remarks that “there will no negotiations with Ocalan and terror organizations, and we will fight terrorism while negotiations will be through politics” his response was, “I didn’t mean Imrali” (the island where Ocalan is imprisoned).

Now we understand from Atalay that negotiations with Ocalan are continuing, or at least will continue to persuade the PKK to give up its arms.

Multifaceted efforts

Atalay also said contacts with the US, Northern Iraq and European countries are in progress and seek to persuade the PKK to give up its arms. But he also he took issue with some countries. For example, he said Syria nourishes terror. The US contributes intelligence to the fight against the PKK, but it wasn’t at desired levels. Northern Iraq is not among the ones he reproaches. He is content with the recent attitudes of Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands.

A look at the actors

Let’s look the actors Atalay mentions. The PKK is still moving full speed ahead with terror acts, terror politics and financial dealings. Attacks against the police and soldiers continue and mines are planted while abductions and narcotics production and trade are in full swing. The latest was the seizure of 29 tons of their cannabis stocks at Diyarbakir.

In Northern Iraq, the Barzani administration is not lifting a finger against the PKK. On the contrary, it provides logistical support. The PKK are free to do whatever they want in Northern Iraq.

The US has no problem with the PKK in Northern Iraq. They just watch.

Countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands have no problems with the PKK. Norway is not doing anything else except offering a table for negotiations.

What the European countries and the US expect from giving up arms is for Turkey to sit down with the PKK and reach a political agreement. It needs no elaboration to understand that such an agreement will not include the PKK’S acceptance of Turkish conditions or abandoning its arms.

Ocalan is the last option

The hunger strikes reaffirmed the position of Ocalan as the sole Kurdish leader. That was the idea behind the hunger strikes, anyway.

Both the BDP and the Kurdish military command at Kandil Mountain keep saying that negotiations with Ocalan is the best possible course. If the PKK is to give up arms as result of negotiations with Ocalan, what will its conditions be then?

Ocalan’s first priority is himself. He wants to be set free. Then a general amnesty, education in Kurdish, setting up of a Kurdish assembly in the southeast, a government, judiciary, police, military and school of its own — the Kurdish government would follow in the footsteps of the institutions of Northern Iraq. That terror actions will continue while negotiations are underway is among their expectations. After all, didn’t Atalay say, “both negotiations and struggle?”

All these, then, bring to forefront the question: What will it cost to get the PKK to give up its arms?

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