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January 10, 2013, Thursday

Past mistakes, vital lessons for peace process

Heated debates are continuing over the scope of the recently resumed talks between the government and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) head Abdullah Öcalan to end the country's terrorism problem, with columnists underlining the need for drawing lessons from Turkey and other countries' past mistakes in the terrorism issue.

Sabah's Nazlı Ilıcak says she wants to see the glass half full. First of all, she says, let's look at the reasons why previous attempts at peace failed. The last failure in the peace talks was in 2011, when a terrorist attack sabotaged the talks. However, the fact that a PKK attack on Monday that was probably staged to sabotage the current ongoing talks did not turn out to be successful shows that we are now better prepared for possible sabotage. Also, when dozens of PKK terrorists surrendered to state officials at the Habur border gate in 2009 upon a call by Öcalan as a result of the positive atmosphere created by a Kurdish initiative led by the government, the terrorists' surrender was viewed as a PKK triumph, which led to public outrage. This happened because neither our politicians nor the public was prepared for the terrorists' surrender.

The reason why we should view the glass as half full now is that the public is much more prepared for a peace process and similar such initiatives compared to 2009. When you think about it, even the families of soldiers killed by terrorists are supporting the talks now. Another reason for being optimistic is the Republican People's Party's (CHP) attitude, Ilıcak says, as the party has decided to support the government at such a critical historic juncture in Turkish politics.

Terror and violence are not just problems in Turkey alone. Now that we are in the midst of a new peace process, it would be better if we look at the countries that have solved or failed to solve their terror problems through negotiations, Eyüp Can from Radikal writes. “There are countries that solved their problem through negotiations and there are others that could not solve it because they resorted to arms and violence. Britain managed to end terror and violence by negotiating with the [Irish Republican Army] IRA terrorist organization after fighting for 30 years. Spain has been fighting against the [Basque Homeland and Freedom] ETA for 40 years; the problem has not been solved permanently, but it has been minimized. South Africa managed to move from a racist apartheid regime to a democracy thanks to the peaceful leadership of [Nelson] Mandela. And on the other hand, there are some countries that have failed to solve their problem via negotiations and have ended up in war, like Sri Lanka. A recent interview with Sri Lanka's former secretary of the defense ministry, Austin Fernando, about the government's mistakes might be useful for Turkey,” Can says.

According to Fernando, the public as well as the government should be supportive of peace, and there should be consensus among political parties and government institutions on a roadmap for a solution. As long as these are maintained, a peace process is likely to work, Fernando says. This is something we should listen to, Can thinks.

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