House arrest out of question for PKK leader, says PM

House arrest out of question for PKK leader, says PM
# 11 January 2013 00:42 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. There is no possibility of the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) serving the rest of his life sentence in home confinement, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan said on Thursday, speaking to Turkish journalists accompanying him on a visit to Senegal, APA reports quoting Todays Zaman.

Last week, the government announced that it had resumed stalled talks with the PKK that briefly took place -- although it was not known to the public at the time -- in 2011. Details about the talks have been emerging in the press but none of these have been confirmed. However, granting Öcalan, who is jailed on Ä°mralı Island off the coast of Ä°stanbul, the possibility of serving his sentence as home confinement will never be accepted by the Turkish state during the negotiations, according to ErdoÄŸan.

In response to a question on the steps that Turkey will be taking as part of the negotiations, ErdoÄŸan said -- implicitly refuting recent reports that a roadmap has been agreed on -- that currently the talks are under way. He also made it clear that talks with Öcalan on Ä°mralı were not a new process but a continuation of the interrupted Oslo talks.

ErdoÄŸan also said he was aware that Öcalan's sphere of influence within the PKK was limited. “Earlier the mountain [the PKK's base camp in northern Iraq] was under the control of Ä°mralı [Öcalan]. Now, Öcalan says they are still loyal to him but there is a rift there. Some of them want the violence to continue while others have a different view of violence and are touching base with Ä°mralı.” He said in addition to PKK-related groups in Europe, there was also the “political extension of this business in Parliament,” referring to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) but not mentioning if the BDP would be included in the negotiations. He recalled that the BDP's Ayla Ata Akat and Mardin independent deputy Ahmet Türk, who is affiliated with the BDP, met with Öcalan on Ä°mralı last week. “If they adhere to the principles being negotiated, the process will continue. But if they don't, we will not continue the talks,” ErdoÄŸan said.

He reiterated earlier statements from government officials that the government was specifically seeking to disarm the PKK. “We want an ultimate solution. Laying down their arms, for one thing. As long as this doesn't happen, it is impossible for us to reach a consensus on anything [with Öcalan and the PKK].”

He also said that the government was also having comprehensive talks with the Kurdish administration of northern Iraq. “We are talking about these with them [northern Iraqi leaders] in detail. Our only concern is to do whatever is necessary to rid the country of this plight we call terrorism.”

In response to a question on whether a timetable for the withdrawal of PKK militants or any other step in the peace process has been agreed on, he said the process was going to adhere to a general roadmap and not a specific timeline.

When asked whether he believed it would be possible for the PKK to disarm themselves before the end of this year, ErdoÄŸan said the talks weren't an exact science. “I can't say anything. This is not a mathematical incident here.”

The prime minister did not provide any details on the demands of the PKK that will be fulfilled. On the Kurdish demand for education in Kurdish for school children, ErdoÄŸan said: “Such a topic is not on our agenda right now. For now, we have given the opportunity for all to learn their native language.” He said Kurdish was available in Turkish schools now as an optional course. “Isn't this about knowing your mother tongue? End of conversation. We won't provide opportunities that might lead to our country's disintegration.”

ErdoÄŸan said pro-Kurdish commentators often gave Europe as an example. “They pick out one program in one state and present it as if its Germany's implementation. Let alone Turkish language in educational systems in Germany, I have not been able to convince [Angela] Merkel [to have programs for Turkish children] to learn Turkish.”