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Turkey's Long Wait For Peace

Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, says parliament should be involved in any renewal of the peace process. (file photo)
Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, says parliament should be involved in any renewal of the peace process. (file photo)

Turkish media reports indicate that political representatives of the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, may be willing to return to negotiations on "the solution process" -- the term commonly used in Turkey to find a negotiated settlement to the "Kurdish issue."

Will the armed hostilities of the last seven months come to an end, or at least a generally observed cease-fire, as was the case until last September?

Let’s hope it will happen. But it is hard to believe.

Very recently, the military commander of the PKK guerrillas, Murat Karayilan, called on his fighters and sympathizers in Turkey to use this "last chance" to take the fight to their enemies.

"It is spring and our [Kurdish] youths should get out of their homes" to fight, he said. This "fight," widely in the form of attacks on military and civilian targets, has resulted in hundreds of casualties in Turkey. Some of the victims have been security and military casualties, but most have been civilians, including passersby in Istanbul and Ankara. The PKK is considered to be a terrorist organization by Turkey and most Western countries.

So, spring has come to Turkey and it is the season for attacks and suicide bombings.

One of the main reasons why the PKK broke the truce in September 2015 and has intensified its attacks since then was the strengthened position of the Syrian Kurdish guerrillas of the PYD Party, a close ally, if not a branch, of the PKK.

The Syrian Kurds have used the power vacuum caused by their civil-war-ravaged country to occupy and seize territories in Syria along the Turkish border.

This has made the PKK more confident of "victory" on both sides of the Syrian-Turkish border and elevated Turkish fears of a united Kurdish state that would incorporate big swaths of land from Turkish territory.

On top of this, copying the Syrian model, PKK has intensively tried to establish "local authority" bodies in Turkey's southeastern regions since September. These efforts by "lawless and separatist" Kurdish movements have been brutally suppressed by the Turkish Army and security forces, leading to heavy Kurdish casualties.

Early, in the fall of 2015, the government announced that " the PKK will be finished within a few months." This never materialized. But the PKK's offensive since then has strengthened popular support in Turkey for the army and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It seems more and more Turks across political borders have to believe that -- at least in the case of terrorism and Turkey’s territorial integrity -- the government needs strong support and national unity.

Erdogan has again proved smart enough to use this opportunity to enlarge his shattered power base.

Maybe, for this reason, the Turkish government’s spokesman, Numan Kurtulus, recently announced that "nobody should expect us to resume talks in any form with the terrorist organization [PKK] while we are waging such a fight for survival."

It seems Turkish society's current dilemma is how to make peace without the other party, the PKK, which is considered to be a terrorist grouping whose charismatic leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is still sitting in prison on the Turkish island of Imrali.

Yes, both sides hope for victory, or some semblance of it, but they are still leaving the door open for an eventual return to talks. Kurtulus has noted that "the venue to solve all our problems, if we want to solve them, is the parliament" and Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of the Party of Peoples' Unity (HDP) known to be the "political arm of the PKK," said "the parliament should be involved" if the failed "solution process" is resumed.

It seems, however, that it will still take a lot more blood and destruction before any resumption of peace talks.

About This Blog

Turkey Notebook is a blog written by Abbas Djavadi, regional director of programming at RFE/RL and a longtime Turkey specialist. The blog presents Djavadi’s personal take on events and is designed for Turkey-watchers and all who want to get the most relevant news, views, issues, and insights on the country that you might not find in the daily news stream. Also check out Turkey Notebook on Facebook or Twitter.