Doors open for PKK pull-out

In a matter of 24 hours the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has killed three birds with one stone: It has made public a “wise men” commission to explain the “farewell to arms” talks to the entire country; it has laid out a proposal to shape a parliamentary commission to oversee the process; and, most importantly, in all secrecy it has sent a new Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) delegation to the island of İmralı to iron out complications in order to give a go-ahead for the withdrawal of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) units from Turkey.

 

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In this picture, the setting up of the external “wise men” commission is the least interesting aspect — despite the media hype. One can claim that simply because of the media hype the commission already has a head start in PR in favor of a peaceful settlement. But, it is only window dressing for the whole scene, a tiny part of the choreography.

The AKP proposal — most likely to be approved — to format an “internal” parliamentary, cross-party commission (expected to consist of 17 deputies, with an AKP majority within), is a much more daring, timely and clever step. It was the other key point of Abdullah Öcalan, who had demanded that something like a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” be built along with the “wise men” delegation.

This very step will have two big consequences.

First, it is apparently aimed at de-blocking all the obstacles that have stood between the government and Öcalan, in order to raise the weight and credibility of the latter to resolutely trigger the pull-out process as soon as possible.

During the meeting on the island, Öcalan sent his messages through the BDP to the partly “hesitant” PKK command in the Kandil Mountains that it should begin by the rebels leaving Turkish soil unarmed.

 

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This message was coordinated with his real-time counterpart, Hakan Fidan, head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Fidan said that the rebels should bury their weapons in Turkey and leave. Both parties’ interests will converge should things go awry.

Before and after the BDP visit to the island, Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdoğan — the key decision maker in the process — gathered a close team of ministers and advisors. At this stage, the complications seem spread out. But, caution is required.

If all goes well with the directives of Öcalan, the pull-out will begin in 10-15 days, starting from the Tokat and Dersim provinces. MİT is given the mission to oversee the technicalities of the pull-out, by placing teams of observers in various corridors into Iraq. Once there, PKK militants will be under the responsibility of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani’s forces. Withdrawal will have to take some time.

The second consequence will play out in politics: The set-up of the internal cross-party commission raises the debate to a new level. That the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will never take part in it is already a given. But, ironically, the demands for two commissions in the process — internal and external — were last year extended by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to the AKP. This means that the AKP can claim that it has now been met, pushing CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu further into a corner.

 

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Cleverness in the AKP’s move is such that they are bypassing once more the main opposition, in order to expose it to the public as an unwilling participant.

The CHP seems to have taken the bait by declaring yesterday that it will not take part in an internal commission, arguing that it is against Parliament’s bylaws, etc. It has once more shown its inability to read into how important this commission is for Öcalan to exert control of the entire process. Its myopia is the longer it proceeds with success, the more wretched the CHP will be by not playing ball.

President Abdullah Gül wisely noted the other day that the CHP must be “included” in the process — but it is the CHP that leads its chairman, and not vice versa.

Yet, it is crucial that Erdoğan makes contact with his adversary and reattempts to include the CHP in the process. But he knows that he has the upper hand — so it’s no wonder if he ignores it.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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