Kivanc Dundar in Istanbul -
PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan has asked his Kurdish guerrillas to take a strategic and historic decision to lay down their arms. He has called for an extraordinary PKK congress this spring at which the guerrilla movement could take up electoral politics and end the conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Ocalan’s call but urged caution, pointing out that the PKK has in the past failed to deliver its promises, while Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the PKK leader’s call marked the beginning of a new phase in the peace process.
Sirri Surreyya Onder, a deputy from the main Kurdish party HDP, read out a message from Ocalan on February 28 at a joint press conference with deputy premier Yalcin Akdogan and other senior government officials. The press conference, broadcast live on TV, was the first time the government had allowed the HDP to convey a message from Ocalan directly to the people in the presence of senior officials.
In 2013, Ocalan called for a ceasefire, which was largely observed by the insurgent group, but the peace talks faltered in late 2013 when the PKK suspended pulling out its armed militants from Turkish soil, accusing the government of not fulfilling its promises.
Ocalan’s statement, made public on February 28, included a 10-point framework to solve Turkey’s Kurdish conflict, including a new constitution.
Erdogan also wants a new constitution, to move Turkey to a formal presidential system. However, Erdogan can achieve his dream only if his ruling AKP scores a decisive victory in the upcoming elections.
HDP delegations have recently paid several visits to Ocalan and the PKK headquarters in the Qandil Mountain in northern Iraq to coordinate negotiations. The HDP has decided to contest the upcoming elections as a party instead of fielding independent candidates as it did in the past.
This is a huge gamble, because the HDP may fail to pass the 10% threshold to enter parliament. According to opinion polls, public support for the main Kurdish party is hovering around 7-8%. If the HDP fails to enter parliament, its votes will be redistributed and the AKP will have an even larger presence.
In order to increase its vote in the June elections, the HDP recently sought an alliance with Turkey’s radical left. The co-chairman of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, has held meetings with several non-parliamentary socialist parties, leftist groups and representatives of the Alavi communities. It was also hoping that some sections of the social democrats fed up with the main opposition party CHP’s ineffective tactics could vote for the HDP this time.
However, after Ocalan’s call on February 28, an electoral alliance between the radical left and HDP looks less likely because Turkey’s socialists and radical left reject any kind of deal with the AKP government.
Reactions to disarmament call
The KCK, PKK’s umbrella organisation, said that disarmament depends on the concrete steps the government will take. The organisation called for the withdrawal of the controversial internal security bill as an indication of the government’s good faith. “Work should start immediately so that direct negotiations can begin, with delegations and monitoring bodies being established”, the KCK said in a statement carried by Hurriyet Daily News. Pervin Buldan, a prominent lawmaker from the HDP, said that he is optimistic that the government will reconsider and make necessary amendments to the internal security law.
Reaction from the opposition parties differed. The centre-left CHP’s leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said disarmament would bring peace to Turkey, but the nationalist MHP, which is critical of the peace negotiations, not surprisingly accused the government of treason.
There have been no media reports about Kurds celebrating Ocalan’s call for disarmament on the streets. Maybe, this is because of Kurds’ deep suspicion of the government. In October 2014, dozens of Kurdish protestors were killed during street protests over the government’s attitude towards Syrian Kurds.
The domestic Kurdish conflict has had severe economic consequences for Turkey. Turkey is estimated to have lost around TRY1.2 trillion (around $478bn) after years of clashes with the PKK, according to Hurriyet Daily News. Turkey spent TRY162mn on defence before 2012, when the peace process was initiated. If the country had not been involved in clashes with the insurgents, Turkey would have spent almost half of the figure, the daily says.
Turkey’s interest expenses were TRY1.6 trillion between 1986 and 2012 and if there had been no clashes with the PKK, the interest rates would have been lower and Turkey would have saved around TRY80bn during that period, analysts told the newspaper. Moreover, it is also estimated the country would have grown 0.5% higher annually between 1986 and 2012 if the clashes with the PKK had not been the case, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Kivanc Dundar in Istanbul - The unexpected success of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in this month’s general election should bring much-desired political ... more
Clare Nuttall in Bucharest - Macedonia’s EU accession progress remains stalled amid the country’s worst political crisis in 14 years, while most countries in the Southeast Europe region have ... more
John Davison of Exaro - Military action by Turkey against Kurdish rebel forces in Syria raises the prospect of a direct clash with the ... more