Jan 08 2019

U.S. should mediate Turkish-Kurdish conflict for regional stability - HDP representative

The peaceful resolution of the Turkish state’s conflict with armed Kurdish groups that will bring stability to Turkey and neighbouring countries, and not an extension of that conflict to Syria, a representative of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has written in an op-ed for the Independent.

The op-ed, written by HDP representative to the United States Giran Özcan, came on the same day Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turned down a meeting with John Bolton, the U.S. president’s national security adviser, after Bolton said U.S. forces would not leave Syria unless their Kurdish allies were guaranteed protection.

These Kurdish forces, consisting of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and several affiliate groups, have been a mainstay in the U.S. fight against extremist jihadists of the Islamic State, but are themselves considered terrorists by Turkey due to their links to armed insurgent group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“That a simple offer of protection for the forces who have formed the United States’ most effective allies against ISIS would spur such a response shows how far the two countries have diverged, even as Turkish officials take the promised withdrawal as a positive step,” Özcan said.

President Donald Trump announced that U.S. forces would withdraw from Syria on December 19. The announcement was greeted with dismay by senior U.S. officials including Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who announced his resignation with a letter that implied he thought of the withdrawal as a betrayal of the United States’ Kurdish allies.

Since then, however, the U.S. president has stepped back from his promise of an immediate withdrawal and, Senator Lindsey Graham said in December, will delay the pullout until the Islamic State is “permanently destroyed” and the United States’ “Kurdish allies are protected.”

For Özcan, the most beneficial strategy for the United States would be to “recognise that the two conflicts – the Turks’ battle against Kurds in Turkey, and in Syria – are connected” and act as a mediator between the two sides.

The last peace process, which broke down after two years in 2015, was supported by 80 percent of Turkey’s population, Özcan said, and “failed in part because no third party invested in its success.”

The HDP representative urges the United States to “invest in peace,” which he says it can do by supporting the members of his party who have been jailed for calling for peace.

Ten HDP lawmakers are currently in prison in Turkey, and several among them as well as many other activists, journalists and academics have faced terror charges after criticising Turkish military operations against Kurdish forces in Afrin, northwest Syria, and within Turkey.

“Right now, the United States has a choice between prolonging two wars and ending them. For the sake of democracy and peace, the Middle East and the world advise them to choose wisely,” Özcan said.