Davutoğlu: "‘Point of no return"

With a slight delay of some days of the date planned, the negotiating parts have now reached the second threshold of the peace process’s first phase.
It has been about silencing the guns first, which has been done. Ever since the end of December, when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rolled up its sleeves, together with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), there have not been any skirmishes between the army and rebel units — only a few incidents, which have not caused any disruption.

Mothers of the fighters, in both camps, have been able to sleep better at night, to paraphrase a source of the state.

“The settlement process,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan two days ago, “which has gained momentum over the past months, has brought the terrorism problem to a halt. The end of terrorism and the start of a new process dominated by peace, calm, democratic rights, mutual respect and tolerance have led to great hope in society. When weapons fall silent and politics speaks, Turkey, Europe and other countries will all benefit from this.”

The declaration of the PKK “command” in the Kandil Mountains of the Iraqi Kurdistan region for the withdrawal of its armed units has been in the making for some time. With it, the second stage will be “official.” By mid-September the initial agreement between Öcalan and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) will have been completed, to make the ground ripe for a farewell to arms.

As I have written constantly, there was no doubt about the seriousness on the process. Every step taken is making it more irreversible. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, was even more dramatic in his description the other day. ‘“It is like trying to swim across a river flowing wild,” he told a colleague.

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“Up until the halfway point, you have the option to turn back; it would be shorter anyway. But once you make it halfway, you want to reach the other bank, no matter what it takes. Turning back would both take longer and be riskier.”

If so, one can assuage the doubts on Ankara a little more. The PKK pullout is necessary for building confidence, but hereafter the serious business will begin.

The ground for peace is now fertile. As the PKK rebels leave their weapons behind, in secret locations, they will also show a symbolic distancing from violence. But, these days many Kurds ask suspiciously, will it end the problems?

The burial of weapons is certainly not the final solution. It will not end Turkey’s Kurdish problem. Therefore, the second phase, which is now expected to begin immediately, namely the political reform, will be the AKP’s crucial test, if it really means business for massive democratization that has long been overdue here.

In an interview with the Vatan daily, Duran Kalkan, a key figure of the PKK, underlines very clearly the fragile part of the process.

Speaking about the young cadres of the militants, he says: “They want to see concrete steps for solution by the government. There are, of course, also concerns about the indifferences [of the government] about our steps. We don’t see the process now as ‘everything is settled.’ Let me make it clear: We can’t see clarity. But we choose to do all. Because we want an opening. A pullout is important, for sure, but what counts is the political solution. When we start pulling out, the ground will be open, so it has to allow politics to work. Turkey cannot afford to delay its problems any longer. It needs hasty action’.”

He concludes: “As a result, there will have to be fundamental changes in Turkey. Will the new constitution remain as one, denying Kurds and other minorities, or be pluralistic?”

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“The Kurdish problem is both very easy and very difficult. What is required is a pluralistic mentality” he concluded.

Headway being made is vital, encouraging. There are now further hurdles. Kalkan points to Iran as a highly likely potential source of sabotage.

My eyes are on the heavily armed village guards.

But the most important issue between Ankara and the PKK is, you guessed it, much more mutual trust. It means less time for words and full focus on deeds — on reform.

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