Erdogan, mystery of Kurdish conflict settlement

Alwaght- It was supposed that Turkey’s Kurds, and specifically the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), would lose a great deal of their fighting potentials against Turkey’s central government after Abdullah Ocalan, the party’s leader, was arrested on February 15, 1999 in the Kenyan capital Nairobi as an outcome of a cooperation between the Israeli intelligence service Mossad and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

But everything turned against the speculations and not only the Kurds’ positions and stances have not weakened but also a huge wave of demands was raised by them for their rights and identity to be comprehensively recognized. Decades following the establishment of modern Turkey in 1924, the Turkish governments and the country’s main nationalist movement have rejected recognition of the Kurds’ identity and their existence.

However, with the arrival of the new century and especially after rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power in 2003, the radical visions towards the Kurds were modified and political as well as social grounds were prepared for face-to-face dialogue between the Turkish central government and the Kurdish groups.

Additionally, based on Ahmet Davutoglu’s “strategic depth doctrine”, Turkey, to take a broad role in the international scene, needed to settle the home disputes, including the Kurdish issue and the dispute of the radical Islamists.

To this end, secret negations were kicked off since 2009 between Turkey’s intelligence service and PKK’s political officials. The dialogue between the Turkish central government and PKK group to put an end to the military confrontations between them has touched a climax in 2014. In 2012, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Prime Minister of Turkey, ordered to start a new round of peace talks with PKK’s leader Abdullah Ocalan.

In a short timeframe, Ocalan have showed a positive approach to the peace process and as a gesture of goodwill, he in 2013 ordered a unilateral ceasefire, as he ordered the PKK members to pull back from the Turkish border areas. The PKK forces within several phases and according to a specified timeline have retreated from Turkey’s border, and working in accord with the agreements, they have been positioned in northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains.

In 2014, the Turkish parliament passed a legal framework for the negotiations. Many have hailed this round of talks as Turkey’s most significant and committed effort to terminate the conflict with PKK. The truce, despite some breaches and sporadic clashes, was in place during this time, but the emergence of the terror group ISIS and Ankara’s relative support for the group’s position, which sought a military confrontation with the Kurds, specifically in Kobani’s siege case, have paved the way for renewed confrontations between PKK and the Turkish central government. Meanwhile, a suicide bombing in Suruc town, a Kurdish-inhabited district located between the Syrian and Turkish border, on June 20, 2015, which left 27 people dead and over 100 others wounded, represented a launching point for the renewal of the clashes between the PKK group and Turkey’s army forces. The killing of two Turkish police officers by the PKK’s fighters in response to Suruc town blast sparked a re-energized war between the two sides.

Following the incident, the Turkish army immediately launched a military operation against PKK’s fighters in northern Iraq’s Qandil mountainous area, as it, besides, has detained hundreds of the Kurds in Turkey, accusing them of being members of the Workers’ Party. After these events, the Turkish President Erdogan said that proceeding with the peace process was “impossible”, and on the other side, Jamil Bayek, Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s co-leader, rejected any unilateral ceasefire announced from his party’s side.

Since July 20, 2015, the Kurdish group killed at least 113 Turkish security figures. On the other side, Turkey claimed that it killed over 1,000 of the Kurdish group’s militants in the recent attacks, a fatality number rejected by PKK.

Following the start of new round of armed clashes between Turkey and PKK, the Turkish army has so far carried out 334 air raids and 244 other types of military operations against the positions of the Kurdish group, the figures published by Euphrates News Agency, which adopts positions close to the Worker’s Party, have suggested.

In response, the People’s Protection Units (HPG), Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s military branch, has conducted 1,133 operations of different kinds. But after passage of a short time, crisis range has become complicated much further when PKK forces have dragged the war into the streets of the Kurdish-inhabited Turkey’s provinces like Diyar Bakr, Mardin, Sirnak and Cizre.

Since the beginning of December 2015, a state of emergency has been announced in Turkey’s southern and eastern cities, and in the current time street clashes of the Turkish army and police with the Kurdish fighters are underway.

The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s youth wing, has been blocking the army tanks’ way by digging deep holes and establishing street blockades. Just beside the PKK fighters, the Kurdish citizens have been staging massive rallies to protest against the continuation of war and policies of President Erdogan and Ahmet Davutoglu, the country’s prime minister. Meanwhile, a large number of the ordinary people have not steered safe of the flames of war. For example, 24 civilians, who have supported People’s Democratic Party, have been killed during the 9-day siege of the Cizre city by the army forces in their anti-PKK campaign, an incident which has caused many rights groups to express concerns over the issue.

Although Erdogan and Davutoglu are talking about a serious confrontation with the PKK’s forces and destroying all of them, the fact is that the recent developments in Turkey’s peace process with Kurds is solely a sign of a greater issue and not its cause. Though such developments could damage the peace process, they could not entirely derail it from its main course.

The costs of end of the peace process and a forced return to the old days of deadly conflicts could be well high for the two sides. Resuming a long-lasting and exhausting war would not bring forth but heavy costs for each side of the dispute, especially in this stretch of time that Turkey and its Kurdish community have enjoyed normalization of relations and avoidance of the violence.

As long as the domestic policy of Turkey keeps being unclear and unpredictable, what would be observed is that the conflicting sides would seek to force each other into doing works unfavorable for the opposing side. In the present time, Erdogan holds no obvious approach for settling and putting an end to the Kurdish issue, but it could be predicted that sooner or later he would resume peace talks with the Kurds.

By Alwaght