14/08/2009

For the Kurds « to come down the mountain »

At the end of July, the historic leader of the PKK Abdullah Ocalan announced that it would disclose a « roadmap » on 15 August to reach a definitive peace between the Turkish government and the PKK. In recent weeks, a process was initiated and raised some hopes. This time the parties seem of goodwill and impatient to put an end to the current violence.

On the Kurdish side, the strategy of armed struggle has lived twenty five years with little results. In recent years, the PKK has seemed ready to drop its weapons. The Party has abandoned its separatist aims, to claim only the recognition of cultural rights for the Kurdish people, as well as political autonomy. So far, however, the echo was not positive on the Turkish side. Ankara’s silence had caused the resurgence of actions by the PKK from their shelter in the mountains of the Iraqi Kurdistan. The response did not take long to come from the Turkish side.

To evolve, the question had to be dealt with in the political arena. The European Union, trying to ensure the minority rights, has always supported such a process. However, in recent years, the accession process of Turkey to the EU has slowed, which does not encourage Ankara to make progress.

The Kurds are not ready to make major concessions; the statement of Ocalan will probably confirm their claims. And if the recognition of cultural rights to the Kurds is now well accepted by the majority of the Turks, it will certainly be different for political autonomy. As for amnesty for PKK fighters, it is considered as possible by some people as Yalcin Akdogan, Erdogan advisor on the Kurdish issue, but will it be accepted by other more nationalistic fringes of the population?

The process has been launched, but both parties now walk on eggshells. For the Kurdish guerrilla « to come down the mountain” and drop its weapons, Ankara will have to work smart. While on the side of the European Union, the time has come to encourage these actions by resuming more actively negotiations on membership with Turkey.

 

Nathalie Janne d’Othée