Turkey closer to settlement of Kurdish issue, say civil groups

The government has for the past few months been focused on finding a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish issue. The efforts have come to fruition recently, with an atmosphere of non-violence between the Turkish security forces and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continuing smoothly for over one month, with the exception of a few incidents. The PKK has recently declared its decision to go ahead with its unilateral cease-fire, a move that boosted hopes among civilian groups for a lasting peace.
Yesterday, a large number of civil society groups in the southeastern province of Diyarbak?r expressed their hope for a durable peace. “This is the picture I have been hoping to see for many years. We are approaching a settlement of problems as the dialogue increases among parties. … We are still at the beginning, but what I am seeing is a Turkey that wants to get rid of its problems by settling them,” stated Mehmet Emin Aktar, the chairman of the Diyarbak?r Bar Association. Aktar also called on the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to play a more active role in the settlement of the Kurdish question, as the nation wants the issue resolved.
Turkey’s Kurdish issue has been present since the early years of the republic but turned violent in 1984 after the establishment of the terrorist PKK. More than 40,000 civilians and security forces have been killed in PKK-government clashes to date.
Mehmet Kaya, head of the Social Research Center at Dicle University, said Turkey’s movement towards a lasting peace was directly linked to a pro-freedom atmosphere that gained strength after the Sept. 12 referendum.
On Sept. 12, Turkey voted on a list of planned changes to the Constitution, a remnant of the 1980 coup d’état. Many saw the referendum as a test of the nation’s willingness to allow the government to proceed with reforms that sought to broaden individual rights and freedoms. The nation successfully passed the test when the constitutional changes obtained 58 percent of the national vote.
“An atmosphere of peace expanded after the referendum. The faith for settlement of problems through democratic means grew stronger. And now, we need to consult anyone who can contribute to the solution of the [Kurdish] question, regardless of their identities and opinions. Turkey had the chance to settle the Kurdish matter in the past, too, but the efforts [for a solution] were sabotaged. We should refrain from the mistakes we committed in the past,” Kaya noted.
Kaya also referred to a recent visit by Aysel Tu?luk — a former deputy and co-chairwoman of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) — to the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence in a prison on ?mral? Island in the Sea of Marmara. He said figures who can contribute to a peaceful atmosphere in the country should take more active steps. Tu?luk told reporters after her visit on Monday that Turkey is “closer than ever to peace.”
“Öcalan expressed his belief in efforts for the settlement of the Kurdish question within Turkey through peaceful and democratic means. He underlined that his approach to unity is strategic. He also said that he will continue his ‘no action’ [by the PKK] period. For him, the government, the state, all political parties, civil society groups, democratic circles and intellectuals should develop a sensible approach in order not to miss the chance for peace,” Tu?luk stated.
The terrorist PKK — who announced a “no action” period, or a temporary cease-fire, lasting until Sept. 20 — had last week said it was extending the unilateral cease-fire for one week. According to some observers, Tu?luk’s meeting with Öcalan will mark a watershed in recent efforts, which have the media and the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) support and which has the silent consent of the military.
Alaaddin Korkutata, president of the Diyarbak?r Entreprenurial Businessmen’s Association (D?G?AD), said the visit by Tu?luk to Öcalan has shown that there is a strong “will” in society for the eventual solution of the Kurdish question. “When we meet with people, we see that there is a strong hope for peace.
Everyone wants peace to prevail throughout the East and the Southeast. We have entered a rather critical period. We started talking about a new constitution and a laying down of arms,” he said, and warned that “dark powers” may work to damage the peaceful atmosphere to block the settlement of the Kurdish question.
It is a fact that Turkey has suffered a dramatic incident, mainly stemming from a terrorist attack, any time it has moved close to settlement of the Kurdish issue. The incident postponed the settlement, which anyone dared not to speak about for months, and even years. For most analysts, Turkey should be vigilant against similar efforts.
Diyarbak?r’s commodity exchange president, Fahrettin Aky?l, said Turkey would become a leading country in all fields once it settled its chronic problems.
“When problems in the East and Southeast come to an end and peace starts to prevail in these regions, no one will be able to block Turkey’s development. Then it will enter the world’s super nations. Turkey has the potential and the strength to solve its own problems,” he added.


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