After attack, calls for political will to solve Kurdish issue
The attack in Daglica should not be allowed to derail political efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 21/06/12
Just as an atmosphere of dialogue and positive steps to resolve the Kurdish problem had been gaining momentum in recent weeks, the deadliest PKK attack of the year has threatened to derail the process.
A Turkish soldier patrols a road near Cukurca in Hakkari province, by the Turkish-Iraqi border. [Reuters]
Eight soldiers and at least two dozen PKK guerrillas died Tuesday (June 19th) in an attack on a military outpost at Daglica near the border with Iraq, as large-scale military operations against the PKK continue in the area.
The attack prompted claims the PKK is again sabotaging efforts to create a positive environment of open dialogue that would pave the way to peace. President Abdullah Gul hinted the PKK was being used as a tool by regional actors and said the organisation was trying to sabotage the state's efforts.
Selahattin Demirtas, the head of the Kurdish BDP, also urged the PKK to "stop all kinds of armed activity." He said the government should also halt operations to "give a political solution a chance." Both the CHP and AKP called on the PKK to unconditionally lay down its arms.
Following the meeting with CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, where the two mulled over the establishment of an inter-party body to discuss the Kurdish issue under the roof of parliament, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week announced plans to introduce elective Kurdish lessons in schools, in another step to address Kurdish rights.
Oktay Vural, deputy chairman of the ultra-nationalist MHP, whose party has rejected joining the quest for a political solution to the conflict, called on the government "to use all means available to eradicate the PKK terror."
"Today's violence once again shows that no matter whatever you give them, the terrorists have only one goal -- to kill as many as they can," Vural told SES Türkiye.
Ahmet Aydin, AKP's parliament group deputy chairman, questioned the timing of Tuesday's attack, arguing that "Whenever we want to take some warm steps to end the terror, the traitors [PKK] don't allow it."
"The terrorists can't change or dictate our policy," Aydin told SES Türkiye. "We will continue all of our efforts at reform while fighting against the terror."
PKK analyst Paul Kubicek, a political science professor Oakland University in Michigan, said it should be obvious by now that there are real splits among the Kurds, with some intent on continuing with violence and others more committed to a political settlement.
"Clearly, there is a real need to engage the Kurds and find a settlement. But I suspect that the PKK will continue with its attacks to undermine prospects for such success," he told SES Türkiye.
Francesco Milan, who researches the counter-insurgency campaign against the PKK at King's College in London, said some elements in the PKK want dialogue with Turkish authorities.
"Clearly there is a division within the Kurdish community. However, it would be wrong to assume that PKK would declare a ceasefire just because BDP asked it to do so; that is not the way in which PKK/BDP relations work," he told SES Türkiye.
Tuesday's attack brings the death toll to 526 for the past 12 months -- 162 members of the security forces, 288 PKK insurgents and 76 civilians -- according to an informal tally kept by the International Crisis Group.
"This worsening casualty count is the result of increasing escalations over the past year, and is a particular blow as in recent weeks both sides showed signs of goodwill to return to the positive atmosphere of the 'Democratic Opening' of 2009," Hugh Pope, Turkey and Cyprus director of the International Crisis Group, told SES Türkiye.
"As alienation deepens in both Kurdish and Turkish communities, the attack underlines just how much political courage both sides will have to summon up to head off an even worse degradation of the conflict."