World Bulletin / News Desk
National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan is carrying out ongoing talks with the head of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to emerging details regarding the talks.
On Monday Yalçın Akdoğan, the chief advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Turkey has begun discussing the laying down of arms with the militant PKK through talks with the imprisoned leader of the organization. The government had been in talks in recent months with Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK's jailed leader, to end a hunger strike by PKK members who were in prison, but Akdoğan's comment is the first confirmation that attempts to negotiate a wider peace settlement are on the agenda.
Abdülkadair Selvi, a Yeni Şafak columnist, shared information in his column on Tuesday with readers regarding the state of the talks based on his sources.
He noted that secret talks previously being held by the state stalled after a PKK attack in Silvan on July 14, 2011. The attack created the impression in the Turkish state that Öcalan was not earnest, as he had ordered an attack while talks were ongoing. Over the past year, state officials have not allowed visits from family or lawyers to İmralı Island, where Öcalan is being kept, in order to fend off other attacks. However, later on the government eased its policy of isolating Öcalan, and the prime minister restarted the process of dialogue. A key factor in this was Öcalan's intervening in November when hundreds of PKK members in prison started a hunger strike, ordering the protestors to stop on the 67th day of the strike. With the move, Öcalan in fact, according to Selvi, placed himself in the equation. The hunger strikes were stopped immediately, also putting an end to discussions on whether Öcalan really wielded power over the PKK. This was what led to the restart of negotiations. The first talk, which was made possible thanks to the efforts of MİT's Fidan, was in November. The second meeting was on Dec. 16, and Fidan was the person who carried out the negotiations. Selvi also noted that he was hopeful to set up a schedule in the peace process this time, as previous talks have taught Turkey that without end goals and a timetable, talks are unlikely to be fruitful.
Speaking about the talks, Akdoğan said the government is cautious about the prospects for progress, noting: "We have to see how Kandil [the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq] will react. … The organization [PKK] has also seen that it cannot get anywhere by waging an armed struggle."
According to Akdoğan, 2012 was a disaster for the PKK, which aimed to start a "Kurdish Spring" and bring clashes into cities but utterly failed to do so.
"The organization [PKK] announced 2012 as the year of victory, but it plainly became a disaster. It mobilized all its resources to fulfill its objective: to establish field control in rural areas and to push people into the streets for a revolutionary people's war," he said.
Akdoğan said Öcalan is still a key actor in settling the Kurdish question. Öcalan retains his influence over the organization, though there are strong signs that the leadership in the Kandil Mountains has challenged his rule on numerous occasions.
Negotiations with a group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.
But Erdoğan for his part is under pressure to stem the violence, which has included Kurdish bomb attacks in major cities as well as fighting in the mountainous Southeast.
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Erdoğan's government has expanded cultural and language rights for Kurds, who make up around 20 percent of Turkey's population of 75 million, since taking power a decade ago.
But Kurdish politicians want greater political reform, including steps towards autonomy for their region.
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