The PKK Has Acted, Now it is Turkey’s Turn

May 16, 2013

The phased withdrawal of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas from Turkey into Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region must be followed up with serious moves by Ankara to settle the Kurdish issue. Otherwise, it will create many problems.

The peace agreement, which is hoped to settle a three-decade conflict in Turkey, seems to have been made with Erbil’s agreement and participation, and with its willingness to take part in helping the guerrillas settle. Erbil is coming under a lot of pressure from the rest of Iraq for allowing the PKK fighters into the Qandil Mountains and “violating the sovereignty of Iraq.”

Last week, I took part in an evening talk show on Sky News Arabia with two other guests, one from Turkey and the other from Baghdad. The rhetoric from Baghdad was clearly against the arrangement and the temporary hosting of the PKK fighters in the Kurdistan Region.

Here is the irony: In the past the Iraqi government showed little concern when Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish regions inside Iraq’s international borders. But today, the issue of PKK fighters crossing into the Kurdistan Region for the purposes of achieving peace is becoming an issue for Baghdad.

Some are even equating the PKK to the Iranian opposition group, Mojahedin-e-Khalq. The only possible explanation that one can see for this sudden interest by Baghdad in Iraqi sovereignty is due to Iranian influence.

Tehran has been against the recent deal with the PKK, and is expected to play a role in disturbing the process. Being a step ahead of the game, Iran is expected to work through many avenues to keep the pressure on the PKK, the Kurdistan Region and Turkey.

This is in addition to the many parties who do not wish to see peace prevail. Every conflict that lasts longer than it should produces warlords, who cannot imagine life without the conflict.

As far as the Kurdish side is concerned, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has gone the extra mile with his call for peace, and ordering fighters to withdraw. In fact, quite a number of Kurds believe that the withdrawal of forces should not have happened without a response from the Turkish government to Ocalan’s March 21 call for fighters to disarm.

The ball is now in the Turkish court. It must quickly reciprocate the withdrawal, seeing it as a part of the peace process, not an aim in itself.

The Turkish government should quickly take serious steps and announce its plan and roadmap for peace now, not when the last PKK fighter has left.

The longer the solution takes the more difficult it will be to achieve a permanent peace, and a just solution that dignifies the Kurds and their struggle for equality in Turkey.

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