New Kurdish peace process to be launched in September - report

A new peace process will be launched on September 1 to resolve Turkey’s decades-long Kurdish conflict with the United States and the Kurdistan Regional Government acting as guarantors, according to İlhami Işık, a Kurdish man who reportedly has brokered several talks between Turkish officials and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the past.

Işık told independent online news channel Medyascope on Thursday that the new process would be totally different from those in the past, as domestic, regional, and international dynamics had changed significantly since 2015.

The Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a peace process in 2013 to solve the long Kurdish conflict in the country after over 30 years of fighting. The PKK launched an armed separatist insurrection in 1984, and has since changed its objectives to focus on Kurdish rights rather than independence.

The government initiative raised hopes for peace in Turkey as it included negotiations with the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, leading the PKK to announce its forces' withdrawal from Turkey.

The process came to an end when a group allegedly linked to the PKK carried out an attack killing two policemen in July 2015, and a string of injustices against Turkey’s Kurdish community, which makes up roughly 15 percent of the country’s population, followed thereafter.

Hopes for renewed peace processes revived when the Turkish government in May lifted restrictions on Öcalan, allowing him to see his lawyers for the first time in eight years. Öcalan has been held in long periods of isolation in a prison on an island in the Marmara Sea since his capture in 1999. 

Just three days before controversial Istanbul mayoral elections on June 23, Öcalan in a letter leaked by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency called on the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) to follow a “third way” rather than taking sides in the struggle between the ruling and opposition blocs. 

The letter of Öcalan was seen by many as a move of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to attract Kurdish votes in Istanbul polls. But the HDP said the letter did not mean a strategy for elections but a post-election strategy. The party stepped up efforts to form what Öcalan called a “democratic alliance” in Turkey, after the opposition candidate declared victory in Istanbul on June 23.

Işık told Medyascope that the government’s efforts to tilt votes in favour by using Öcalan’s letter had damaged the new peace process before it had started, but that damage could be mended in a short time.

“All regional actors apart from Iran are placing pressure, they want a new process,” Işık said. “It will be a multi-layered process that will open the way for groups supporting democracy,” he said.

Işık’s statements were in line with what Nagehan Alçı, a columnist of Habertürk news site with close ties to the government, told Kurdish Rudaw television on June 21.

“A very credible source confirmed it to me,” Alçı said. The new process will involve both Öcalan and Nechirvan Barzani, the newly elected president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, she said.

Cemil Bayık, a founding member and top leader of the PKK, said this week in an article he penned for the Washington Post that the Turkish state and the PKK had before them a rare opportunity to move a decades-long dispute toward a lasting solution.

The PKK is not naive enough to maintain that the Kurdish question can be solved through dialogue with Turkey’s ruling AKP alone, Bayık said, adding that it remains committed to a political solution of the Kurdish question within Turkish borders.