The Turkish government recently reported “important progress” in talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group seeking greater Kurdish autonomy from the Turkish government. In an email interview, Gulistan Gurbey of the Free University of Berlin explained the political context and prospects of the talks.
WPR: What is the political context, in terms of risks and opportunities, for Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, the AKP, in pursuing a deal with the PKK now?
Gulistan Gurbey: Erdogan’s readiness for a deal with the PKK results from the escalation of violence in Turkey since last summer and the civil war in Syria. The AKP government is under pressure to act. The talks with Ocalan give the government a chance to channel the military conflict into a political solution and to develop a peace process. This requires, above all, the government’s true willingness to find a political solution for the entire Kurdish conflict by including the PKK, not just disarming it. Without this political willingness, the talks will end without results, and a new degree of violence will be reached.