WSJ: Turkish Premier Bids To End Long Conflict

By Nicholas Birch

Wall Street Journal
Aug 5 2009

Erdogan Meets Kurd Leader, Decries ‘Blood and Killing’

ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey met the
leader of the country’s main Kurdish party Wednesday, signaling a new
drive to end a 25-year conflict that has hobbled Turkey’s status as
a rising regional power and slowed its efforts to join the European

"Our people want unity… and an end to blood and killing," said
Mr. Erdogan, describing the hourlong meeting with Democratic Society
Party head Ahmet Turk as "very, very important."

More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died since the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party, or PKK, took up arms against the Turkish state in
1984. The war has cost the country an estimated $300 billion and
fueled opponents within the EU to Turkey’s membership bid.

Mr. Erdogan repeatedly turned down earlier requests for a meeting
with Mr. Turk, because the Kurdish politician would not declare the
PKK a terrorist organization. Mr. Turk’s party has 21 deputies in
Turkey’s parliament and controls most municipalities in the mainly
Kurdish southeast.

Mr. Erdogan’s reconciliation effort is only the latest in his
government’s policy of trying to neutralize disputes around its
borders. Those attempts have had mixed success.

In April, the government looked close to securing a deal with Armenia
to reopen their common border, which Turkey closed in 1993 to protest
Armenia’s war with Turkish ally Azerbaijan. Though strongly backed by
the U.S. — President Barack Obama praised the effort when he visited
Turkey in April — those efforts collapsed, when Mr. Erdogan backed
away from the deal under pressure from Azerbaijan.

Turkish efforts to resolve the dispute over divided Cyprus in 2004,
30 years after Turkey invaded the island, also ran aground, due to
Greek Cypriot opposition. That failure has left in place an larger
hurdle to Turkey’s EU bid.

Mr. Erdogan in 2005 broke with Turkey’s traditional policy of seeing
the Kurdish issue as a simple matter of fighting terrorism when he
promised "more democracy" for Turkey’s Kurds. Like Turkish leaders
before him, however, he didn’t follow up words with policies.

Mr. Erdogan’s Kurdish initiative faces opposition and long odds. The
leader of a Turkish nationalist party, Turkey’s third largest,
accused the government Saturday of "surrendering to terrorists"
bent on dividing the country.

Yet many analysts say the new Kurdish opening is qualitatively
different from anything that came before. "For the first time ever,
Turkish state institutions are working in synch to solve the problem,"
said Henri Barkey, a Turkish expert at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

The main catalyst for Turkey’s new sense of urgency is Washington’s
announcement that it plans to pull its soldiers out of Iraq, Turkey’s
southern neighbor, by 2011. The planned withdrawal has speeded up a
rapprochement between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds, whose relations have
been blighted for years by the PKK’s use of Iraqi Kurdish mountains
for its military bases.

In 2007, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, turned down
Turkish demands for cooperation over the PKK, saying that he would
not expel "even a Kurdish cat." Today, Iraqi Kurds increasingly see
Ankara as an alternative to Washington in its struggle to maintain
autonomy from an increasingly powerful Baghdad. Both sides agree the
PKK’s presence in Iraq is an obstacle to closer relations.

There is an economic side to the rapprochement too. "Turkey wants to
use northern Iraqi gas for Nabucco," says Bayram Bozyel, a Turkish
Kurdish politician, referring to a pipeline project that the U.S. and
EU hope will help break a Russian stranglehold on European natural
gas supplies. "And the [Iraqi] Kurds want to pump gas north." That
would be risky in the midst of a guerrilla war.

Details of the government’s Kurdish initiative remain sparse. In
mid-July, Mr. Erdogan’s chief political adviser proposed opening
Kurdish language departments in universities, giving Kurdish names back
to villages, and setting up a parliamentary commission to investigate
the unsolved murders of Kurdish civilians at the height of the PKK war.

Said Bayram Bozyel, the Kurdish politician, said: "There are huge hopes
this time. If they are disappointed, God only knows what could happen."

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS