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February 05, 2013, Tuesday

Challenging steps of peace strategy

Turkey recently made game-changing move when it launched negotiations with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.

A peaceful solution to Turkey's terrorism and Kurdish issues is a long time coming, as both sides have suffered greatly over the past three decades, and luckily so far talks between Öcalan and Turkish officials have not been sidelined. One of the government's demands is that Öcalan make a call to his group to pull out of Turkish territories as the first step in the talks; however, columnists point out that this process is complicated and challenging at every step and it requires caution and a well-planned strategy on the part of the government.

A good strategy requires predicting the possible next steps and taking measures accordingly, Star's Sedat Laçiner says, and Turkey should fulfill the requirements of this strategy as it deals with such a critical and deep-rooted problem as the PKK. Therefore, the question of where the terrorists will go after they move out of Turkey is critically important, the columnist notes.

Some intelligence units and politicians argue that it does not matter where they go as long as they leave Turkey and, in this way, democracy can finally prevail among the Kurds, whom the PKK has long been exploiting. However, Laçiner believes there is the possibility that the terrorist group may strengthen itself further in another country and then return to Turkey to carry out even more powerful attacks.

“The developments in Syria are particularly significant in this sense. More than 1,000 of 5,000 PKK terrorists are already in northern Syria. And if the armed terrorists in Turkey indeed leave Turkey, the majority of them will go to Syria and not to Iraq, because northern Syria has the appropriate ground for terrorists. Most of the Syrian Kurds are the Kurds that have migrated from Turkey to Syria. And the rest of the Syrian Kurds are generally from the same tribe as the Turkish Kurds. Thus, PKK terrorists have more in common in terms of language and culture with Syrian Kurds than with Iraqi Kurds. This will make it easier for the terrorists to persuade the Syrian Kurds to join the group and then to establish an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan, like the one in northern Iraq, along the Turkish border in northern Syria. In other words, I am afraid the PKK might carry on its activities in Syria so as to return to Turkey having become even more powerful and destructive,” the columnist writes.

Oral Çalışlar from Taraf agrees that drawing PKK forces outside of Turkey is just the beginning of a complicated process. There will be more difficulties, such as what will happen to the terrorists after they leave Turkey and what will happen to Öcalan. When, or if, the terrorists leave Turkey, it will surely render the government more powerful and encourage it to make bolder reforms for Kurds. Perhaps the terrorist organization will then turn into a group legally involved in politics. These hopes depend on the calm and determined atmosphere of the peace process and trust between the two sides, he notes.

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