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January 03, 2013, Thursday

Is it different this time?

Turkey once again raised its hopes, though more cautiously this time, about the fate of the country's chronic Kurdish issue after government representatives announced that there are ongoing talks -- strictly aimed at convincing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to lay down arms -- with Abdullah Öcalan, the head of the PKK.

Turkish columnists, meanwhile, heatedly debated what the reaction of the commanders in Kandil, the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq, will be and what is different today from previous attempts at talks.  

Radikal's Eyüp Can writes about what Öcalan might demand from the government in return for the government's call for the laying down of arms. Öcalan will probably demand the release of some people imprisoned for membership in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and Turkey doing away with its reservations on the Council of Europe's (CoE) Charter of Local Self-Government. These steps are important to build mutual trust between the two sides.

Sabah's Nazlı Ilıcak says that now that we know for sure that Öcalan was not the one ordering the Kurdish inmates' hunger strikes a couple of months ago as the talks had already begun or were about to begin at the time, did the commanders in Kandil give the order? If so, either Kandil did not know that the negotiations with the government had started or it just wanted to take the initiative itself. Or it knew about the negotiations but simply preferred to act without Öcalan's order or knowledge, which Ilıcak believes to be what really happened.

Today the influence of Öcalan -- who is seen as a semi-god figure that will “free Kurds” -- over the PKK terrorists is still undisputable, Yıldıray Oğur from the Taraf daily says. Then, he focuses on the question of “Will Kandil accept Öcalan's call for a cease-fire?” This is an important question that needs to be answered, he says. Different from previous attempts, this time the government demands that Öcalan end the armed struggle and that PKK members move to PKK camps outside of Turkey. The demand is not to have the PKK surrender or give up their arms to the state, which was the case in previous attempts and why Kandil was alarmed before that the state wants to have the PKK disbanded and so decided to stage attacks without Öcalan's permission or knowledge. Oğur says this time the negotiations with Öcalan are being carried out in a more cautious and proper way. What is more, this time the talks were launched following significant reforms by the government for Kurds. Oğur then quotes from prominent academic Gökhan Bacık, who wrote in one of his tweets: “The leader that solves the Kurdish issue will become a second founding leader like Mehmed I, who restored the Ottoman Empire after ending the Ottoman Interregnum. Yes, today we are at an important and historic stage. And Öcalan is the only leader that can come up to the stage on behalf of Kurds.”


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