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February 12, 2013, Tuesday

Peace negotiations and global circumstances

If the ongoing cease-fire and the negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are a success, we will be able to say that a genuine peace process has begun. We all know that Turkey is a country tired of decades marked by violence, with thousands of people trying to cope with the deaths of their loved ones.

We must admit that the majority of the Turkish people don't really care about the details of the negotiations, who is really capable of commanding the PKK militants, where and how these negotiations should take place, how often, etc. Nevertheless, most people fear possible calamities that could interrupt the talks. If the process fails, the Kurdish problem will become much more complicated than it is today and the political price the government will have to pay will be very high.

It seems that there is consensus among the negotiating sides and general public opinion that there needs to be an end to the terrorism and violence. However, such an agreement is not enough to succeed in the fight against terrorism. International circumstances, too, must allow for the PKK to lay down its weapons. Thankfully, the conditions are in place for that.

It is important to see that the PKK's activities are not hurting just Turkey -- they also put the Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria in a difficult situation. The Iraqi Kurds already have enough trouble with the government in Baghdad. The political conditions in Iran do not allow the country's Kurds to demand more rights and freedoms. In Syria, the outcome of the civil war is going to dictate the conditions in which the Syrian Kurds will live in the coming years. Given these circumstances, these countries' Kurds don't really need a supplementary headache.

Moreover, the current power struggles in the region do not allow the Kurds to take a leading role at the moment. The struggle in Turkey's neighbors is between diverging political and social groups within the Arab majority who are trying to accede to power. In these conditions, the best way for the Kurds to gain some influence over their countries' political futures is to join in one of the existing alliances. The problem is that one of the most powerful parties in each of these political conflicts has religious aspects to it.

As we can observe in Tunisia and Egypt, there are two main groups fighting with each other. On the one side are people who claim to be leftist, liberal, secular or moderate and on the other are Islamic movements. One can add to this picture non-Muslim populations or ethnic minority groups trying to protect themselves from the negative effects of this merciless power struggle.

Great powers are trying to make sure that the new regimes in the Middle East will be protected from Islamist subversion; however, the process called the Arab Spring cannot be explained without the role of the Islamist movements. Still, one cannot expect a peaceful political environment if Islamists or all other groups are systematically kept out of power circles. Therefore, coalitions formed by diverging political sensibilities may become the only viable solution. For example, Coptic Christians may become a part of the governing coalition in Egypt, and Kurds in Syria.

This trend may offer some solutions for the future of the Kurdish political movement in Turkey. If terrorist attacks continue, military precautions will be inevitable, but great powers are trying to make sure that armed conflicts are prevented or at least remain localized. Any development in the opposite direction may reinforce the Turkish-Islamic synthesis, closing the door to any further agreement.

In a political atmosphere free from the pressure of PKK attacks, not just Kurds but every political actor will be able to act according to pluralist, democratic rules and, in today's world and in the unstable Middle East, everyone needs this from Turkey.

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