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January 10, 2013, Thursday

Risks facing İmralı process

We have once again seen and learned how easy it is to make war and how hard it is to make peace. This is particularly so in this conflict-stricken part of the world.

Our hopes for a permanent settlement of the Kurdish issue were raised after the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) joined talks with jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan as well as senior PKK leaders in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq on Dec. 16, 2012, to convince the PKK to lay down its arms and leave Turkey, but unusual things have started to happen, running neck-and-neck with these positive developments.

Last Tuesday night, more than 100 militants from PKK groups known to be disturbed by the government's negotiations with Öcalan attacked a military outpost in Çukurca, a district in Hakkari province. One soldier was martyred and several others wounded in the attack. Can you believe this? At a time when the leader of an organization starts a historic event, certain groups from that organization which the leader in question is assumed to control engage in a big provocation to sabotage the process. The fact that these groups consist mainly of PKK militants from Iran and Syria is proof that the peace process will have to walk on a multi-player, multi-factor, long, thin and fragile road. This is why we must give some serious thought to the legitimate question: "Holding peace talks with the PKK is OK, but is there only one PKK at the negotiation table?"

As I said above, every time any talk of peace and a solution is made in this part of the world, unusual and violent developments inexplicably crop up one after another. Before we learn more about the full extent of the İmralı process and hear an official statement about it, incidents which have the potential to influence this process have started to pop up hot on the heels of this process. News about executions in Paris reported Thursday morning should be perceived in this framework.

Three Kurdish women affiliated with the PKK, including Sakine Cansız, one of the few PKK founders who had managed to survive within the cut-throat hierarchy of the organization, were shot in the head and died at the Kurdish Institute in Paris. French police believe these women were executed as part of an intra-organization conflict. Whoever the perpetrators, the timing of the executions is considerably intriguing, particularly given the fact that this is the first time such a senior PKK leader was killed in Europe.

In the past we witnessed that whenever mention of peace and a solution was made, many internal and external mechanisms acted in unison to sabotage the freshly started process. When a process is kicked off to render the PKK terrorist organization dysfunctional either via negotiations and democratic moves or via coordinated and successful military operations, we see similar provocative sabotage. It is obvious that this sabotage cannot be undertaken without cooperation between the PKK terrorist organization and the networks nested within the state apparatus as well as certain foreign powers.

In this context, speaking on Thursday, President Abdullah Gül made cautionary remarks, saying that measures should be taken to avert the potential provocative efforts by foreign intelligence services, and his warning is of utmost importance. As a matter of fact, our bitter experience from the past tells us to do the same: There were the shady events that occurred one after another when the late President Turgut Özal was preparing to introduce democratic openings in 1993, including his death; the PKK's attack against a military outpost in Diyarbakır's Silvan district in July 2011, killing 13 Turkish soldiers and undermining the unknown secret talks that the Turkish state had been conducting with a number of PKK leaders in Oslo under British mediation; the Uludere tragedy in which 34 civilians were mistaken for terrorists and killed by military air strikes in Şırnak's Uludere district, due to false intelligence, thereby bringing successful military operations against the PKK to a halt; and many other provocative developments…

All this is proof that the efforts to disarm the PKK, which is one of the biggest obstacles to the solution of the Kurdish issue, are like a multivariate, complicated equation. We are talking about a terrorist organization which is governed with a complex web of relations among a myriad of factions, and whichever faction is taken as the addressee in the talks, you face the risk of opposition or sabotage by other factions. Despite the fact that the PKK was born out of the suitable atmosphere stemming from the Kurdish issue and it has been employing the wrong methods, it is no longer an organization promoting a special cause. As far as I can see, the PKK is no longer an organization that can be managed solely by Öcalan or Murat Karayılan or Fehman Hüseyin. Today, the PKK is an international terrorist consortium which can be influenced and manipulated by international powers with different purposes. It is for this reason that we need to wield caution and foresight in addition to hope and optimism concerning the recently launched process.

Indeed, evil-minded countries and malevolent powers that have the luxury of using the PKK as a tool for their ends whenever they need it will do their best to block this process. Everyone can be assured of this. Who are these evil powers? I am talking about the powers you can easily guess. A brief look at our neighbors will lead us to conclude that Iran, which is in a never-ending competition with Turkey, the Nouri al-Maliki-led Iraq, and the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus have vital interests in letting the PKK live. You may add to this list Israel, which likes to have at its disposal various functional tools in order to make its regional policy sustainable. You should even take into consideration that Russia and many European countries or certain dynamics in these countries play a role in some part of this filthy formula.

Viewed from this angle, the PKK issue has unfortunately evolved into an intricate, gangrenous problem. This is because it is dubious whether the PKK is a reliable addressee with this complicated structure. In the final analysis, when you sit at the table for negotiations with one wing or faction of this terrorist organization, other wings or factions controlled by other powers may emerge to confront you. This is, I think, best known by Öcalan himself because, as reported by the Habertürk daily, he sent a letter via MİT officials to the PKK leaders in Kandil, cautioning them against potential provocative attempts from Iran.

Given this picture, I find it useful to maintain the negotiations, but I believe the likelihood of solving the Kurdish issue via talks with the PKK terrorist organization is unfortunately very low. Moreover, I reckon these well-meaning negotiations will help the PKK emerge as the sole addressee in the Kurdish issue, thereby victimizing the people who have no interest in the PKK and who comprise about 70 percent of our Kurdish citizens. And any potential moves that would put the fate of these citizens in the hands of the terrorist PKK will be a big mistake.

What do I propose instead? Let me explain: The talks with the PKK should continue. But, as noted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey should continue to conduct operations against those groups that shed blood in the interests of foreign countries. Indeed, when the PKK lays down its arms, operations will automatically stop. Most importantly, the government must stop positioning the terrorist PKK as the sole addressee or representative of the Kurds. In other words, all Kurdish citizens should be taken as an addressee, and a democratic system -- which can be decentralized if necessary -- should be established in which they can live freely and comfortably with their language, culture and expectations about the future.

An unconditional, full-fledged democratization process in which all Kurdish citizens are taken as an addressee will produce quicker and more successful results than the talks with the terrorist PKK. In other words, instead of trying to solve the Kurdish issue by purging the PKK through this or that method, it would be much easier and conclusive to solve the Kurdish issue, thereby rendering the PKK dysfunctional.

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