An intense series of meetings and talks between political party representatives and the parliament speaker on Friday, as well as statements from other parties involved in the ongoing oath crisis that began two weeks ago when two opposition parties refused to participate in the swearing-in ceremony for the newly formed Parliament, have signaled a possible end to the turmoil.
However, developments that took place on Friday hinted that the crisis might be drawing to an end. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and former CHP leader Deniz Baykal came together in a rare meeting on Friday. Baykal spoke to the press shortly after the meeting in the afternoon, saying he had shared his opinions with Kılıçdaroğlu on the oath crisis. Although he was tight-lipped about whether the CHP would come around and take the oath, he said he would be supporting the CHP’s policies “after this point.”
However, news reports said Baykal strongly criticized Kılıçdaroğlu for the boycott and urged him to review the party’s decision. He reportedly criticized Kılıçdaroğlu for failing to manage the crisis well and told him that the crisis will grow more serious day by day if not resolved. Baykal reportedly warned that the current situation damages the CHP’s image and asked the chairman to urge the deputies to take their oaths.
In related developments, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek in the afternoon. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Erdoğan said his visit aimed to congratulate the newly elected Çiçek. Responding to a question as to whether the oath-taking crisis was on their agenda or not, Erdoğan said “yes.” “You know our parliament speaker has some demands [for a solution to the issue.] I said we can comply with his calls,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan’s remarks received a positive reaction from the CHP, whose parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Akif Hamzaçebi said he found the prime minister’s speech positive. The CHP had been criticizing Erdoğan for his strict stance on the issue.
Çiçek’s meeting with Erdoğan follows another meeting he had with CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu on Thursday, which was described as a positive meeting by the CHP. Çiçek, who is suggested as the main actor in solving the crisis by the CHP, urged both the CHP and the BDP to review their decision in refusing to take the oath and boycotting Parliament and called on both parties to make a positive start and turn a new page. He is expected to invite all parliamentary groups’ deputy chairmen to discuss the issue in order to speed up attempts to find a solution to the ongoing impasse.
Çiçek earlier met with BDP Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan and BDP Muş deputy Sırrı Sakık in Ankara. Kaplan confirmed the meeting, during which the parties reportedly discussed proposals for a solution to the issue.
PKK leader Öcalan says BDP can take oath and return to Parliament
President Abdullah Gül also spoke on the issue on Friday and once again called on the parties to seek a solution to the country’s problems. Noting that no shadow should be cast over Turkish democracy, Gül recalled his earlier initiatives to address the issue. The president last week met with BDP officials and Kılıçdaroğlu in two separate meetings to hear out their suggestions for a solution.
There were promising developments on the BDP side as well on Friday. A group of lawyers representing Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), announced on Friday that the BDP deputies can take their oaths after reaching an agreement with the government on the issue.
Öcalan’s remarks signal that the BDP can take its oath and join Parliament soon as the pro-Kurdish party is known to be influenced by his opinions; the BDP has not denied links with Öcalan.
The BDP earlier announced that they would boycott Parliament in protest of the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) decision regarding Hatip Dicle and five other jailed deputies. The YSK stripped Dicle, one the six jailed deputies, of his mandate over a prior terrorism-related conviction after the June 12 vote, which led to outrage among the pro-Kurdish party and its supporters. A total of 36 independent deputies supported by the pro-Kurdish BDP were elected in the June 12 elections. However, six of the BDP-sponsored deputies are currently under arrest as part of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) trial.
Öcalan’s lawyers gave details about the content of a meeting they had with Öcalan on Wednesday and said Öcalan had stated that he reached an agreement with the Turkish state and that the BDP deputies may enter Parliament. “I am not sure whether this problem can be solved or not. But the BDP should not fall into traps as it did before in the past. As we said before, they [BDP deputies] can take their paths after reaching an agreement with the government. This agreement should be certainly reached and it is very important. The agreement can be parallel to the protocols I previously presented to the state or they can make another one in accordance with their own circumstances,” Öcalan reportedly said.
Öcalan also reportedly presented three “protocols” to Turkish state authorities around one month ago, which included suggestions to solve the Kurdish question and offered a second chance for peace. Turkey’s Kurdish question has existed since the first years of the republic, but it turned violent in 1984, several years after the establishment of the terrorist PKK. More than 40,000 civilians and security forces have been killed in clashes so far. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government believes that military measures will not be able to solve the Kurdish question and thus launched a “democratization initiative” in 2009. The government hopes to solve the question through peaceful and democratic means.
Öcalan’s lawyers said there can be additions to his protocols such as a solution to the situation of Dicle, the release of the other five jailed deputies, lowering the 10 percent election threshold and changes to the Counterterrorism Law (TMK). “The Hatip Dicle issue and other problems may not be immediately solved. However, the things that the government and the state would do can be written in a text, which would be an agreement to solve these issues,” Öcalan reportedly said.
Öcalan’s lawyers also mentioned what Öcalan described as a “Peace Council.” They said the PKK leader and the state reached on an agreement on establishing such a council to address the Kurdish issue. “The Peace Council will neither be a state body nor merely a civilian one. This council will work for a solution and peace. The Peace Council should be established within a month,” Öcalan was quoted as saying.
After this agreement regarding the “Peace Council,” Öcalan said, he withdrew his earlier remarks in which he said July 15 was the deadline for the state to finalize negotiations with him. Öcalan threatened last month that if negotiations bear no fruit, Kurds should seek their rights through war. His lawyers said Öcalan says these remarks are no longer valid now as negotiations have been finalized.
A fugitive at the time, Öcalan was captured in Kenya in February 1999 while being transferred from the Greek Embassy to Nairobi’s international airport. He was initially sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was abolished in Turkey in August 2002. Öcalan has been serving a life sentence on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since his capture.
The PKK leader has recently claimed that he has regular talks on İmralı with a delegation of representatives of the Turkish state.