The Turkish government does not share information with the military in its secretive efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue, the chief of the General Staff has said, insisting that the military still maintains “red lines” when it comes to fighting terrorism.
“We have said in the past that we will do what is necessary if our red lines are crossed and we will continue to say what needs to be said. We have been conducting this fight for 30 years,” Gen. Necdet Özel said. But he added that there are now “nuances” in the description of red lines when compared to 10 years ago.
The government, through the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), has been conducting secret talks with the imprisoned leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — whose three-decade violent campaign in southeastern Anatolia has led to 40,000 deaths — to end the PKK terrorism and resolve the Kurdish issue. Former Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay recently said the talks could be expanded to include the PKK leadership in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq.
Responding to questions on the settlement process, Özel revealed that the military is not part of the efforts. He said the government has not shared with the military any road map regarding the steps to be taken to advance the settlement process and that all the information the military has about that road map has come through the media.
“We are not part of that effort. I wish we were,” Özel told reporters at a Victory Day reception hosted by newly inaugurated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential palace on Saturday evening. He said Atalay had said the relevant state institutions would be handed a blueprint outlining steps to resolve the Kurdish issue, but no such document has been sent to the General Staff yet. “We will express our view when we see it [the document],” Özel said.
The efforts to end PKK terrorism and resolve the Kurdish issue through expanding rights for Turkey’s Kurds have been widely commended, but the secrecy surrounding the talks have led to suspicions as to what the government’s planned steps are. Despite sporadic violence, the clashes between the PKK and the Turkish military have ended to a large extent as part of the ongoing settlement process.
“We don’t want the mothers to cry anymore, and we are in favor of the protection of the unity of our country,” Özel said.
The chief of General Staff also said the military has not been given any solid evidence regarding allegations that the military has been infiltrated by the “parallel state,” a term President Erdoğan uses to refer to alleged members of the faith-based Hizmet movement within the state bureaucracy that aim to topple him.
The government has removed from their jobs tens of thousands of police officials and officers as well as judges and prosecutors in the wake of a major corruption probe that went public on Dec. 17 after dozens of people were detained, including the sons of now-former ministers and bureaucrats and businessmen close to the government. Erdoğan claims the investigation was a coup attempt targeting his government that was orchestrated by the Hizmet movement and its foreign collaborators, a charge denied by Hizmet.
The government claims the “parallel state” exists within the military, too, an allegation that Özel said needs to be substantiated by solid evidence. “The Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] work with documents and information,” he said, adding that military authorities have requested documents from MİT but none have been provided.
“We cannot initiate a procedure [against military members] on the basis of anonymous tip-off letters. The Turkish Armed Forces believes in the rule of law and acts accordingly,” Özel said.