Turkey must reconsider approach with PKK - former Turkish foreign minister

Former Turkish Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış said that the failed hostage rescue operation in Iraq earlier this month should push Ankara to reconsider its strategy against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

The failure of the mission to rescue the hostages from a PKK stronghold in the Gara mountains in northern Iraq prompts questions on whether Turkey should reassess how it aims to end four decades of fighting against the terrorist group, Yakış wrote in a column with Arab News on Sunday.

On Feb. 13, Turkey announced that it launched a hostage rescue raid that found the 13 captives dead inside a cave. Ankara accuses the PKK of executing the hostages but the group said it was Turkish airstrikes that killed them. Turkish opposition politicians have made numerous requests to understand where the raid went wrong and the circumstances behind the hostages’ deaths, but this has been rejected by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s coalition. 

“The cost of fighting the PKK should perhaps push the Turkish decision-makers to consider other methods of bringing an end to the Kurdish terrorism issue,” said Yakis.

For example, he offered that Ankara consider negotiation as an option for future hostage operations than resorting to special forces raids alone. This is something that Turkish officials can pursue if they had the willingness to do so. 

“In a slightly different case during the week of the Gara operation, Ankara negotiated with Nigerian terrorists who had kidnapped 15 Turkish seamen off the West African coast, and secured their release,” Yakis wrote, referring to the capture and eventual release of Turkish sailors from the vessel Mozart off Nigeria’s coast. 

Yakis offers that the economic costs alone from fighting the PKK should also be another reason to reassess current approaches. He referred to comments by the deputy chairman of  President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), who said that fighting the PKK across the decades has cost Turkey close to $2 trillion.

He also made clear that if Erdoğan wanted to try something else, he himself has proven capable of doing so. It was President Erdoğan who initiated the peace process with the PKK which managed to achieve a ceasefire inside Turkey. However, the war in Syria and the June 2015 elections that saw the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party win 81 new seats in parliament put an end to this effort.

Yakis does not believe that this is impossible to revive and he believes solving the lingering so-called Kurdish problem will spare Turkey from the damage the war has done to the Turkish social fabric. 

“If Turkey ultimately decides to genuinely translate into action the democratic and judicial reforms it has started to voice lately, all ethnic groups in the country...will benefit,” wrote Yakis. 

“The social tensions that have been steadily rising may be defused and the country may go back to what it used to be in the early years of AKP rule,” he added.

 

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