Turkey in key stage to address Kurdish issue

Turkey in key stage to address Kurdish issue
# 23 February 2013 22:52 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Turkey is now in a comprehensive campaign to tackle the long-standing Kurdish issue, with this week being claimed the most important for the peace process in the country, especially after three pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies on Saturday paid a visit to Abdullah Ocalan, who has been jailed in Imrali Island prison in the Sea of Marmara for 14 years, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

The 64-year-old jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), who was sentenced to death but later commuted to life imprisonment when Ankara eliminated capital punishment as part of its bid to join the European Union (EU), still has considerable influence over the PKK militant members.

After the eight-hour visit, BDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Pervin Buldan said that "Ocalan identified this peace process as historical and asked from everybody to be very careful in this period."

"Ocalan also wishes that the detainees from both sides will soon join their families," she said, adding that Ocalan thanked press members for their supporting role and sent his best regards.

The PKK accelerated its abduction campaign after July 2011. Between July 2011 and August 2012, it kidnapped over 145 people -- mostly civil servants such as teachers, soldiers and bureaucrats.

Two officials from the National Intelligence Service of Turkey accompanied the BDP deputies on their way to Imrali; while government officials have also held talks with Ocalan in order to convince PKK militants to lay down arms.

Saturday's visit follows a similar visit by BDP deputy Ayla Akat Ata and independent deputy Ahmet Turk on Jan. 3.

The most problematic point in the so-called peace talks is said to be the future of the leading PKK commanders based in the Qandil Mountains.

"After the meetings with Ocalan, we will ensure the delivery of the messages to the Qandil Mountains. We do not necessarily have to go to Qandil," said BDP Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas, referring to the PKK leaders in the mountains.

The negotiated package now foresees for about 150 of the leading commanders to be moved to a country, which is not a neighboring one and not a EU member. However, it is not clear whether the commanders will accept the possible expulsion decision.

Demirtas said a new process will be starting following the visit. "We will share with you the discussions and the results of the talks after our friends come back. We are assuming that a new process will start," he said, adding that Ocalan has already presented a road map to the government.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan briefly commented on the visit before departing for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he will be a guest of honor at the Government Communication Forum.

"We cannot know what sort of suggestions Ocalan has made before hearing from the BDP delegation. We will only learn what sort of messages were sent after they come back," Erdogan said, noting that the BDP deputies have yet to return from the island before his scheduled departure.

Erdogan underlined that the government's goal is to convince the PKK to lay down its arms, and that the retreat of PKK militants from Turkish territory is crucial.

"This way, we can take precautions so that the same misfortunes of the past don't happen again. Our people have an expectation. We have to assume responsibility together," he said.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU. Its members took up arms in 1984 in an attempt to create an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey. Since then, over 35,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving the group.

The Kurds in Turkey represent almost 20 percent of the population. They live in all provinces of Turkey, but are primarily concentrated in the east and southeast of the country, which largely resembles the region of Kurdistan.