The Kurdish Challenge

Source: Getty
Op-Ed New York Times
Summary
Three murders in Paris underscore the obstacles in the way of a Turkish-Kurdish settlement.
Related Topics
Related Media and Tools
 

The assassination of three Kurdish activists in Paris only days after the Turkish government announced it had started peace talks with the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the P.K.K., underscores the difficulties of finding a lasting solution to Turkey’s most acute and thorny internal problem.

Neither the killers nor the motive in the deaths of the three women, all associated with the P.K.K., are known at this stage. But the murders were most likely an attempt to sabotage the talks.

The recently initiated negotiations involving Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the P.K.K., and Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s intelligence services, are to address some of the main demands of the Kurds in return for a cease-fire in the P.K.K.’s long guerrilla war against the Turkish authorities, followed by the disarmament of the P.K.K. and eventually its repudiation of armed violence.

Turkey’s large Kurdish minority has long chafed under restrictions on its culture and language, including the lack of public education in Kurdish or the inability to use Kurdish in official dealings and courts. Some Kurds seek more autonomy for Kurdish-dominated areas in southeastern Turkey; most want a lowering of the 10 percent threshold for political parties to enter Parliament, which Kurdish parties cannot achieve. These requests have so far proved to be anathema to Turkey’s rulers, who fear that moves in this direction could unravel national unity.

The P.K.K. was formed in 1978 and in the 1980s resorted to armed violence, leaving little room for a political settlement.

The latest attempt at one was prompted by the civil war in neighboring Syria, which has also fed Kurdish national ambitions. In Ankara’s view, a settlement with the Kurds in Turkey would safeguard the country from the ethnic turbulence in Syria, and would strengthen Turkey’s regional authority.

The Turkish leadership, however, is not certain that Ocalan will be able to convince others leaders and members of the P.K.K. to abandon the armed struggle. The historical analogy with Northern Ireland, where a cease-fire by the I.R.A. in 1997 led militants to break away and form the “Real I.R.A.,” which continues to wage a terror campaign, fuels the skepticism.

For his part, Ocalan also must have doubts that the Turkish government is interested in anything more than the disarmament of the P.K.K.

To overcome this mutual distrust, the negotiations are supposed to produce a road map with a progression of confidence-building measures. Each side will be expected to implement specific measures before they proceed to the next step. The idea is to start with easier step and to move toward more difficult ones as confidence grows.

For instance, as a first move the Turkish government is expected to pass a judicial reform package that decriminalizes all nonterror political activities, thus leading to the freeing of several hundred Kurdish activists from prison. More difficult and politically sensitive measures, such as the total disarmament of the P.K.K. or the improvement of Ocalan’s own conditions of imprisonment on a Turkish island, would be tackled later.

The question is whether Turkey’s body politic would allow the process to proceed in the face of more attempts to derail it. The P.K.K. has often been used in the past by Turkey’s regional foes as an instrument to contain Ankara’s influence. In the 1990s, President Hafez al-Assad of Syria harbored Ocalan and the P.K.K.’s armed fighters. Tehran has also been occasionally accused by the Turkish authorities of engaging in similarly unfriendly practices. There is every reason to believe that there will more efforts by forces fearful of Turkey’s growing regional influence to encourage the extremist wing of the P.K.K. to sabotage the peace process.

But there are also grounds for optimism.

This time around, other domestic political groups, including the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.) and the main Turkish opposition party in Parliament, the Republican People’s Party (C.H.P.), have demonstrated a sense of responsibility. The B.D.P. leadership is willing to act as a facilitator for the talks and C.H.P. has given its clear support to the government for the negotiations.

More can and should be done. In particular, Turkey’s friends and allies abroad should focus their efforts on helping Turkey’s political leaders resist any inclination to leave the negotiating table before a settlement is reached.

This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

End of document

Comments

 
Source http://carnegieeurope.eu/2013/01/11/kurdish-challenge/f1uw

More from The Global Think Tank

In Fact

 

45%

of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.

30%

of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.

140

charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.

2.5–5

thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.

92%

of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.

$2.34

trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.

37%

of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.

72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address in the field below to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
 
 
Carnegie Europe
 
Carnegie Europe Rue du Congrès, 15 1000 Brussels, Belgium Phone: +32 2 735 56 50 Fax: +32 2736 6222
Please note...

You are leaving the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy's website and entering another Carnegie global site.

请注意...

您离开卡内基 - 清华全球政策中心网站,进入另一个卡内基全球网站。