[email protected]

February 01, 2013, Friday

Paris killings’ impact on negotiation process

The recent killings of three Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members in Paris continue to dominate the Turkish media and political debates. Immediately after the incident, many political observers were convinced that the murders were related to the recent negotiation initiative with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Thus, parties were extra careful about possible provocations at the members' funeral ceremony. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), in particular, led its members to not harm the process. As a result, the funeral ceremony was held in a rather calm manner, which further fuelled hopes for peace. It was the first time in the last few years that the BDP did not provoke the peace process.

The pro-government media were very happy about the funeral ceremony, running headlines claiming that an important stage had been passed in the journey towards peace negotiations. It was expected that right after the funeral, the peace process was going to be expedited. However, it slowed down because the PKK and Öcalan have been trying to understand what actually happened in Paris -- what the message was and who was responsible.

All the signs indicate that the PKK is somehow involved in this process. It is very likely that Ömer Güney was a messenger for the PKK. Yet, it seems that the killing was a professional job that both put the Turkish government and the PKK under suspicion at the same time.

Pro-PKK media outlets have continued to blame Turkey for the killing. Yesterday, a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) agent, Murat Şahin, allegedly spoke to the Yeni Özgür Politika daily, where he argued that he knew Güney from his MİT contacts. MİT denied this claim but such denials could not remove the dark clouds casting a shadow over MİT's position. For at least the Kurds who trust the pro-PKK media, they strongly believe that the killings in Paris are related to the Turkish government.

To me, it is unlikely that MİT conducted such an operation for two reasons. First, MİT has very limited abilities to conduct such an operation. Second, the peace process is MİT's grand project. Therefore, conducting such an operation equally means that MİT is stupid enough to shoot itself in the foot.

The PKK accused MİT and the Turkish state because it does not want to sit down and negotiate with the government at this stage. From the very beginning of this process, I took the risk of standing alone among other journalists in insisting that the PKK would not want peace negotiations at this stage because there is no reason for the PKK to do so.

Now with the Paris incident, the PKK has found a golden opportunity to end the process. A few days ago, the Kurdistan Communities Union's (KCK) presidential committee released a statement making it a priority to solve the Paris incident before the negotiation process. In the statement, the KCK says “it is necessary at this stage to solve the Paris incident to continue the process.” Further, it was stated that “unlike the claims circulated in the Turkish media, there is no way that the PKK militants will withdraw from Turkey. It is just psychological warfare by the Turkish government against us; don't take them seriously.”

This strong statement from the KCK indicates that the PKK is not willing to negotiate at this stage or at least lift the threshold for negotiations to gain more.

While the PKK is denying the hopeful news from the Turkish side, the leading newspaper in this operation, Yeni Şafak, claimed that the process is continuing as expected and that three deputies from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are going to visit Öcalan while MİT head Hakan Fidan will be visiting Arbil in the coming days.

Yet this “news” too, immediately after it appeared in the press, was denied by BDP Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş. We don't know which side is telling the truth at this stage but we do know that there is a lot going on behind the scenes and there are more disagreements than agreements.

Do we need to be optimistic about the process? No, not at this stage. Let's wait and see if there will be a declaration from the PKK side accepting that they will be withdrawing their troops from Turkey.

Previous articles of the columnist