Jan 31 2018

Only Erdoğan and Öcalan can stop war – columnist

Only two men can end armed hostilities between Turkey and Syria’s Kurds, wrote journalist Amberin Zaman in the New York Times.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdullah Öcalan, leader of armed Kurdish groups in both Syria and Turkey – the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – hold the key to ending a century-old conflict that has been re-ignited in Syria, Zaman said.

Erdoğan and Ocalan, who remains the Kurds’ leader despite his imprisonment on an island off Istanbul -- should restart a ceasefire that ended in 2015. Kurdish politicians, held in jail on spurious charges of terrorism, should also be released, Zaman said.

"Turkey and the PKK must not wait until they have both paid a punitively high price in war to talk," she said. "Despite his authoritarianism, Mr. Erdoğan remains the most popular and boldest leader in recent Turkish history. He and Mr. Öcalan can end this war, and they should agree on an immediate ceasefire inside Turkey and Syria."

The PKK and YPG are inexorably linked to each other – many of the YPG’s top cadres are from the PKK, and Syria’s Kurds have helped the PKK fight an armed struggle in Turkey, which peaked in the 1990s, Zaman said.

Erdoğan cannot secure peace in mainly Kurdish-populated regions in Turkey by military means, as his predecessors have discovered. But he seems intent on following a nationalist, militarist agenda ahead of presidential elections next year, she said.