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Turkey: Prime Minister Signals Negotiations with Kurdish Rebels

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Turkey, Citizen Media, Governance, Human Rights, Politics, War & Conflict

The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has signaled that he will negotiate with Kurdish rebels after months of deadly violence from Kurdish rebels in response to Turkish policies.

It is the fear of further escalation of this violence that has led Erdoğan to consider talks. In the past Turkey has been unwilling to negotiate with rebels, despite calls from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party.

Hugh Pope, director of International Crisis Group’s project in Turkey and Cyprus has spoken to Euronews [1] highlighting how the changes since 2009 affect the lives of Kurdish people:

Last year there was very severe degrading of the situation to a point where more than 700 people were killed in the fighting, including more than 200 soldiers, more than 400 PKK members and nearly 80 civilians. These are the worst casualty figures since the capture of PKK Leader Abdullah Ocalan and I think it is a watershed moment for Turkey, I think, because many things are changing in the region and Turkey needs a new policy direction. I think currently the way that fighting escalation needs a reconsideration a real of policy.

Kurds protest in Istanbul against clashes in Diyarbakir. Image by  Fulya Atalay, copyright Demotix (15/07/12).

Kurds protest in Istanbul against clashes in Diyarbakir. Image by Fulya Atalay, copyright Demotix (15/07/12).

Talks with Kurdish rebels will come as a surprise to many sociologists who have argued that successive Turkish governments have always believed that through time Kurds would assimilate and become Turks.

Ismail Beşikçi in an interview with Rudaw [2] is quoted to have said the following:

The Turkish state does not have any particular view on solving the issue of the Kurds. Therefore, it delays dealing with the problem, hoping that it will be solved over time. That is because the Turkish state believes that as time passes, the Kurds will assimilate. A large number of Kurds live in the west of Turkey. The state believes that after two to three generations, they will assimilate and become Turks. I believe this is the plan of the state.

Recently, a report showed [3] that the PKK [4] (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) guerrilla movement was forthcoming to enter negotations.

The Turkish government is responsible for restricting the negotiation process in the Oslo talks, a senior member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Zübeyir Aydar, who was in attendance for the negotiations between Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and PKK, has said, adding that the PKK would like to see negotiations to begin again.

On Twitter the responses were different; some have questioned [5] Erdogan's previous statements on the successfulness of military operations against Kurdish rebels.

Twitter attracts a diverse range of opinions on the subject of Kurdish rebels and many Kurds have tweeted about the possible negotiations. Some are sceptical, others have pointed out that the talks are simply a means of watering down the current escalation of violence which depicts Turkey in a very bad light.

For instance a Kurd living in Turkey, Necirvan [6], tweeted that negotiations with Kurdish people are a waste of time, and will lead to disappointment. This view was echoed by Yezdan [7] who said Kurds should not be naive about this negotiation attempt.

Idrees Mohammd [8] pointed out that domestic pressure has increased, which has led to Erdogan signalling the way to more talks. But according to Baxtiyar [9], who is a politics and international relations student, the initiation towards negotiations is due to the “weakness of Turkish forces in confronting PKK fighters”.

There is no doubt that Kurdish rebels are open to negotiations, because they have lost a significant number of people due to Turkish forces shelling the mountains where most of them are situated. Hevallo [10], a pro-Kurdish activist tweeted that the Kurdish rebels are calling for “Oslo talks to restart”.