Negotiation of negotiations: Who has the upper hand – AKP or PKK?

Turkey’s so-called “Solution Process” has gotten into a rut.

Given the stakes and the path the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been pursuing, the opposite would be a surprise. Two years spent in the name of bringing the bleeding Kurdish issue to a resolution, and the issue is now at a deadlock as both sides flex their muscles on the eve of the elections.

On the simple side, this: In the two years, what was achieved by the “dialogue” — which mainly took place between Hakan Fidan, the ex-director of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), and Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with the addition of the delegates from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — was the “normalization” of the talks and a lasting cease-fire. Those were the preconditions for a process demanding to be enhanced with a roadmap and benchmarks.

But it is here that it gets complicated, and dangerous.

“Normalization” required increased dosages of transparency. Yet, on the contrary, the process was covered by even more secrecy, escalating public suspicions to higher levels. Suspicions have now turned into hostility because of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s divisionary and polarizing rhetoric.

The second negative element was the lack of any willingness — or, rather, wisdom — by the AKP to synchronize the process with a new constitution. If the party were serious about it, it would have public support close to what the referendum in 2010 achieved — 58 percent. But it was not. It was the AKP itself that left the reconciliation work to draft a new constitution on Dec. 18, 2013.

This leaves the talks without promising content; the process lacks any constitutional guarantees to convince the Kurds. It has only remained open to zigs and zags and cheap tactics. It has exposed the AKP government’s staging of a cunning game, whose basics seem to lure the Kurdish political movement to consolidate power around Erdoğan and a tiny, closed circle around him.

The current, already notorious “Internal Security Bill” should also be seen as a “stick” element to force the PKK’s hand. That Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s current discourse emphasizes “security of the public and elections” is revealing in a sense that, by tightening the screws — which means applying the tools preferred by the predecessors of the AKP — the government hopes that the threat of emergency rule will force the PKK’s hands. Clearly, this is a misreading of the conjuncture of Turkey and the region.

So, stuck now between the prospects of a solution and the possible loss of the nationalist vote, what the AKP and its mouthpieces in the media try to do — in a panic that is hard to disguise — is carve the Kurdish political movement up by placing Öcalan against the PKK “command” in Kandil and discrediting the HDP.

Needless to say, this approach — tried many times before — is far too shallow not to be misread by the top figures of the PKK, whose “memory” is strong enough to swallow such counter-propaganda.

Equally important, forcing Öcalan to “interfere” frequently to test his authority is actually eroding his authority. Again, Ankara may be seriously miscalculating the destructive potential and loyalties of the Kurdish youth in the region. They may be more attentive to what the PKK figures in the mountains say rather than Öcalan himself at the end of the day.

The greatest illusion of Davutoğlu — who is widely regarded as the master of illusions — is that, after two years have passed, he is hoping that a) “negotiation of negotiations” (which is the case here) will be sustainable until the elections, and b) “take” is still possible without a “give,” as he often repeats that laying down arms in Turkey would be a condition to start serious negotiations.

At the same time, he admits also that the process did come to a very critical stage. It has now become obvious that Öcalan had handed the government side a 10-point “action plan,” which has pushed Davutoğlu into a corner. Selahattin Demirtaş, who told the media about it, threatens him now by making it public.

The Kurdistan Committees Union (KCK) already stated that the talks are about to end, accusing the AKP of delaying tactics and demagoguery.

What if they end, and the PKK decides to boycott the elections, taking another path?

Is Davutoğlu aware of the risks and consequences?

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.
This entry was posted in Turkey. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s