The Turkish government has no plans to restart a process aimed at bringing a resolution to the country’s so-called “Kurdish problem,” a presidential spokesman said on Friday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
In a written statement spokesman İbrahim Kalin said, “There is nothing resembling a ‘resolution process’ … on the president’s agenda.”
In early 2013, under then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish government launched an initiative known as the “resolution process” to end a decades-old conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Kalın’s statement came after İnur Çevik, Erdoğan’s chief adviser, told HaberTürk TV’s Kübra Par during an interview on Thursday that Turkish citizens in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern regions are uncomfortable with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The AKP formally entered the “People’s Alliance” with the MHP in February 2018, after MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s overtures to the ruling party. Çevik’s comments refer to an aversion among Kurdish voters to the MHP, which has historically taken a hard line against Kurdish identity politics, unlike the AKP, which relaxed laws prohibiting Kurdish-language media outlets and began a peace process with the PKK in 2013.
President Erdoğan could prepare initiatives dealing with Kurdish issues to assuage their discomfort after the presidential and parliamentary elections are held in June, said Çevik. The ruling party could resume the peace process, he said, but no move would be forthcoming until after elections. Pressed by Par on whether this was being delayed to avoid creating tension with the MHP, which opposed the last peace process, Çevik insisted it was not.
Çevik’s willingness to compromise apparently did not stretch to Selahattin Demirtaş, the presidential candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who is running his campaign from a prison cell where he awaits trial on terror charges for alleged links to the PKK, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist organisation. Despite calls from opposition politicians for Demirtaş to take part in the upcoming elections, Çevik said he should remain behind bars due to the danger that he could cause unrest.
Turkish authorities conducted direct talks with jailed PKK chief Abdullah Öcalan for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.
Kalın said: “The president has exerted great efforts during both his prime ministry and presidency for all citizens of the Republic of Turkey to live as individuals with equal rights. He rejected all forms of distinctions based on religion and ethnicity and showed this through his concrete actions. Our Kurdish brothers, just like all individuals, are equal citizens of the Republic of Turkey.”
The Turkish government began a crackdown on the Kurdish political movement, represented by the HDP, in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors.
Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast. There are currently nine HDP deputies behind bars. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.
Kalın added that the determined fight against the terrorist PKK would continue.
More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting in the Southeast between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in March reported on allegations that the human rights violations and abuses in Turkey’s Southeast are massive and serious, calling on the Turkish government for full and unfettered access to be able to directly, independently and objectively assess the human rights situation in the region.
In a 28-page report the OHCHR recommended that Turkey “renew efforts to secure a peaceful end to the situation; and to ensure that every loss of life that occurred in the course of security operations is duly investigated, and that perpetrators of unlawful killings and other human rights violations and abuses are brought to justice.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)