Details emerge about roadmap of peace talks, radical steps ahead

PKK leader Abdulah Öcalan sits behind bulletproof and bombproof glass during his trial on the prison island of İmralı on May 31, 1999. (Photo: AP)

January 09, 2013, Wednesday/ 09:56:00

Possible steps to be taken as part of ongoing talks between Turkish officials and the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) aimed at disarming the PKK are gaining clarity, with possible plans in the works to issue a general amnesty for the PKK's higher commanders.

It has also become clear at this point that Kurds do not want a homeland independent from Turkey nor do they want autonomy, according to the latest developments in the ongoing talks between state officials and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Turkey has tried to conduct negotiations with the PKK twice before. Each time, the talks were abandoned due to violent attacks staged by groups inside the PKK who were not interested in peace. Last week, talks that had begun earlier were resumed and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan has been meeting with Öcalan on İmralı Island, where the PKK leader has been jailed since his capture in 1999.

Abdülkadir Selvi, a Yeni Şafak columnist with good knowledge of the content of the talks, wrote yesterday that one of the first questions during the talks -- aimed at initially disarming the PKK according to government officials -- from MİT's Fidan was whether the PKK insists on having a separate homeland. Selvi writes that Öcalan was very clear on this, stating that there are no demands for independence.

According to Selvi's sources, a comprehensive project is in the works for the withdrawal of PKK militants from Turkey. The talks, which are a continuation of a 2010 negotiation that began in Oslo but was interrupted in 2011 following a deadly PKK attack, resumed when Öcalan intervened in a collective hunger strike held by Kurdish inmates in November and asked the protesters to stop, which they obeyed.

Whether it will be possible to have PKK militants withdraw from Turkey will only become clear in May, according to Selvi's sources. Selvi also wrote that at the time when Fidan was speaking to Öcalan on İmralı in late December, a group of MİT officials had meetings with PKK commanders in Kandil, northern Iraq. Decisions on whether it was possible for the PKK to pull out of Turkish territory were made after these talks, according to Selvi.

The most crucial issues that Fidan and Öcalan took up during the negotiations included independence and autonomy, which Öcalan said were not the PKK's demands. A more administratively autonomous local government, however, might be possible. According to Selvi, both sides have agreed that if Turkey removes its reservations placed on Articles 4 and 5 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, an arrangement that allows Kurdish mayors greater autonomy might be possible. There are also plans by the government to have the public vote for governors -- who are currently appointed by the Cabinet -- which will strengthen local governments in Kurdish regions.

Also, according to the information acquired by Selvi, a roadmap has been set out for the core administrative group of the PKK. These individuals, who number 50, will be settled in several European capitals. There will also be a general amnesty -- although it will most certainly have a different name -- for other senior PKK commanders in Kandil -- where the PKK is based -- to return to Turkey with impunity and conditions will be laid out to allow them to enter politics in a legitimate manner.

In the last phase of the roadmap, a peace force will be established to monitor the withdrawal of PKK militants from Turkish territories. In 1999, the PKK began withdrawing from Turkey but 500 militants were killed by security forces. The government is intent on not letting this happen again. Security forces, MİT officials and political party representatives will be part of the peace force.

PKK leader Öcalan has also offered cooperation in Syria, where the PKK has a powerful presence in the form of an armed group called the Democratic Union Party (PYD). Öcalan offered the Turkish state cooperation in Syria and is ready to call on the PYD to not support the Bashar al-Assad regime but the opposition instead.

In related news, chief consultant to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Yalçın Akdoğan on Wednesday made statements to the Bugün daily. Akdoğan said the first step in the negotiations should come from the PKK and that this should be withdrawal. “As a first step, the PKK should move to across the border.” He also said that the release of suspects and inmates in the trial of the Kurdistan Communities' Union (KCK) -- a larger group that includes the PKK which prosecutors say is an attempt to form an alternative state -- and changing Öcalan's sentence to house arrest was out of the question.

Meanwhile, village guards -- individuals armed and paid by the state in the predominantly Kurdish regions of Turkey to fight the PKK -- have also expressed support for the talks. Ata Altın, the general coordinator of the Assistance and Solidarity Association for Temporary Village Guards and Martyr Families said, “As village guards and their families, we support every step that will stop the bloodshed in our region.” Altın said the village guards have been fighting terrorism for the past three decades. “We have not only been fighting terrorism with guns but also with our ideas,” he said, explaining the reasons behind forming the association. Altın said village guards and their families number about 1 million people in total. “These people are of Kurdish origin, they speak Kurdish, they practice Kurdish customs but they don't want terrorism.” He also complained that some segments were trying to slander the village guards.

Although Altın and his association are sensitive about the issue, the village guard system, established to fight the PKK, is seen as a shady institution. There have been many cases where village guards have been suspected of colluding with the PKK in addition to the ethical problems associated with arming some members of a society against others. In fact, according to Selvi's column, the roadmap which the government has been working on is taking specific measures into consideration to ensure that the void left from the withdrawal of PKK militants is not filled by village guards in a region where illegal guns, the weapons trade and smuggling are the only source of income for many.

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