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February 18, 2013, Monday

Crucial balance of optimism and realism

Turkey has entered a new era of hope for an eventual solution to the terrorist problem following growing support from political parties and civil society groups for the ongoing talks between state officials and terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan to broker a deal for the disarming of the terrorist group.

And yet, politicians and columnists are persistently calling for “cautious optimism,” pointing out the possible sabotage attempts that might occur during the process.

Radikal's Cengiz Çandar suggests that our expectations from the process should have a balance of optimism and realism. Referencing an article by academic Güneş Murat Tezcür, Çandar says it is rather unrealistic or too difficult to expect peace between the PKK and the Turkish state from the talks. The first reason for this, he says, is that the conflict between the terrorist group and security forces has not yet reached a point where both sides are left with no other choice but to make peace. Both sides still have the power and availability of arms to carry on the fight for a while more.

Secondly, there is a huge difference between the concessions that the government can give to the group and what it will take to persuade the PKK to disarm itself. The peace negotiations that are currently under way are far from being effective enough to overcome this difference. This problem is caused by the political differences between the two sides, Çandar writes. The government plans to end the rebellion through a series of reforms that will abolish the restrictions on Kurdish identity and language, while the PKK prioritizes establishing an autonomous administration in the Kurdish populated areas in the country. A third reason is that we don't know for sure if Öcalan has full control over the organization. Although these are the reasons why we remain cautious, it doesn't mean that we should adopt “cautious pessimism” rather than optimism. If not permanent peace, we can at least expect a temporary cease-fire from the talks. The PKK might accept a cease-fire until the time when local and presidential elections are held in the following years, which is certainly a positive move but not a permanent solution, Çandar writes.

Taha Akyol from Hürriyet says that no matter how skillfully the government conducts the negotiations with Öcalan, there will always be a possibility that an attempt of sabotage comes from the PKK wings which deem the peace talks as a betrayal of the organization's goals. The peace process will always remain open to exploitation until the very end, Akyol notes.

Bugün's Gülay Göktürk points out that if the talks yield results and the terrorist group lays down its arms, it means that the PKK has practically been disbanded because a PKK without arms is no longer the PKK. The terrorist group, after all, is known not for its views but the methods it uses to make its views heard. Some PKK terrorists might get involved in politics after the organization is disbanded but the idea of this should not intimidate the public as it doesn't mean that the PKK continues to exist, albeit through politics, Göktürk argues, adding that once the PKK lays down its arms for good, it can never pose a greater threat than it does now.

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