World Bulletin/News Desk
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a meeting on Thursday evening with a delegation of the Wise People Commission at his office in Dolmabahçe Palace in İstanbul.
The delegation briefed the prime minister about people's perceptions and expectations of the ongoing settlement process to solve the decades-old Kurdish question.
The Wise People Commission is tasked with promoting and explaining the ongoing settlement process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to the public. The 63-member commission is made up of groups organized on a regional basis and is active in the country's seven regions.
The prime minister invited the heads of each region to discuss the work of the commission so far. Deputy Prime Ministers Beşir Atalay and Bekir Bozdağ, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin and Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik also attended the meeting.
The meeting lasted for nearly seven hours. No official statement was made afterward. However, members of the meeting's delegation spoke to reporters and said they told the prime minister about people's thoughts on the settlement process.
The members of the Wise People Commission have been paying frequent visits to citizens across the country to gather information on how they feel about the settlement of the Kurdish issue.
In a bid to resolve the country's decades-old conflict between the state and PKK, at the end of last year the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government launched negotiations with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is incarcerated on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara.
In past months, Öcalan, who, despite his 14 years in prison, still wields enormous clout over PKK members as well as millions of nationalist Kurds in Turkey, called on PKK militants to lay down their arms and leave Turkey.
In line with the organization head's call, PKK militants began withdrawing from Turkey earlier this week.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Bozdağ said Turkey is going through important times in order to become a more powerful state -- with trying to solve the conflict and restore peace in the country -- and its people will be more prosperous.
“The Wise People Commission is also working to these ends. The commission has been working for around one month now. Its members travel to all corners of the country and meet with people from different backgrounds. They talk to those people, listen to their opinions and have an idea of how the settlement process is being perceived. They shared those perceptions with the prime minister and us [ministers]. We all witnessed that the process is being carried out successfully,” Bozdağ stated, expressing hope that the settlement process will be completed successfully.
Can Paker, who heads the commission's members assigned to Eastern Turkey, said the delegation shared its perceptions about people's thoughts on the settlement process. He also said the delegation did not submit a report to the prime minister. “The prime minister listened carefully to each member of the delegation and took down notes. We told the prime minister about what people think about the process,” he stated.
Commission member and human rights activist Yılmaz Ensaroğlu said the delegation was not given a time limit; instead, they were allowed to freely express their opinions and perceptions about the settlement process.
“We asked questions conveyed to the prime minister by some people. The prime minister answered them. A more detailed meeting will be held next month,” Ensaroğlu noted, adding that the Wise People Commission may submit a report to the prime minister at the next meeting.
Journalist and writer Sibel Eraslan, who is the deputy head of the commission's members assigned to Eastern Turkey, reportedly told the prime minister that people in the east are mostly asking for a new constitution that creates solutions to their long-standing problems.
According to Professor Yusuf Şevki Hakyemez, the people his commission group has met with so far have concerns that Turkey may be divided some day as a result of the settlement process. “Supporters of the process say the state should not make any concessions that may lead to the division of the country. This is a view that we support, too,” he told reporters before meeting with the prime minister. Hakyemez heads the commission's members for the Black Sea region.
As the delegation's meeting with the prime minister continued, a group of opponents of the settlement process gathered outside Dolmabahçe Palace to protest the meeting. The group chanted slogans that denounced both the meeting and the settlement process.
When the group attempted to enter the palace, police intervened and stopped them with tear gas. Three protesters were taken into custody.Last Mod: 11 Mayıs 2013, 09:41