jump to navigation

Kurdish quest tests Erdogan’s claim to be a regional leader 15 janvier 2013

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Financial Times (UK) Tuesday, January 15, 2013, p. 4

By David Gardner in Beirut

It is almost a geopolitical cliché that, when a long and intractable conflict looks as though it might be soluble, maximalist headbangers or vested interests gorged on the dislocation of war emerge to exercise a violent veto.

This has been a feature of conflicts from Ireland to Palestine, El Salvador to Colombia, or from Kashmir to Sri Lanka. Now this is what appears to have happened in the execution-style killings of three Kurdish women in Paris , just as the government of Turkey is negotiating with the Kurdistan Workers’ party, or PKK, to end a three decades-long insurgency in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country.

The evident target of the Paris assassinations was Sakine Cansiz, 55, a founder of the PKK and ally of Abdullah Ocalan, its imprisoned leader, and one of his delegates in the secretive peace talks.

The talks began under Norwegian auspices in Oslo and recently became direct negotiations between Turkish intelligence and Mr Ocalan. There are credible reports that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is willing to enhance Kurdish linguistic and cultural rights and devolve a degree of self-government to Kurdish areas if the PKK stands down, ending a dirty war that has claimed 40,000 lives.

Mr Erdogan’s neo-Islamist Justice and Development party (AKP), which came to power just over a decade ago, has openly acknowledged that Turkey has a problem to resolve with its up to 15m-strong Kurdish minority. Yet its efforts to do so have been patchy and hesitant.

Despite its unassailable majority in parliament, the AKP is wary of a Turkish nationalist backlash, and has rounded up thousands of Kurdish activists. Until now, the Erdogan Kurdish initiative had prioritised infrastructure investment in the impoverished southeast, and insisted – unrealistically – on dealing separately with Kurdish civic demands and the « terrorism » of the PKK which, despite its brutal suppression of rivals and dissidents, commands the loyalty of many Kurds long denied any option.

However, even the possibility of resolving this conflict long ago sparked spoilers. The Oslo talks were leaked in September 2011, and Hakan Fidan, Mr Erdogan’s spy chief and point-man in the initiative, was a target for prosecutors last year. The PKK eagerly resumed its offensive from the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq.

It is possible that Ms Cansiz and her colleagues were murdered either by ultranationalists embedded in Turkey’s « deep state » or rejectionists within their own party. The PKK has acquired some of the habits of a vicious Stalinist cult. Yet, at the same time, many Kurds – stateless losers from the regional carve-up that followed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago – now sense a historic opportunity .

The Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, under the wily Massoud Barzani, embodies the closest Kurds have yet come to governing themselves. The Kurdish areas of northeast Syria broke away from Damascus last year as the civil war there accelerated. They are now under the sway of a PKK ally, while many PKK military leaders are from Syria, not Turkey.

While Ankara has cultivated economic and political ties with the KRG, Mr Barzani facilitated the expansion of Kurdish autonomy to Syria and has come close to armed hostilities with the government in Baghdad, which no longer has the stricken President Jalal Talabani – himself a former Kurdish guerrilla leader – to mediate Iraq’s conflicts.

The stakes are high, for Turkey and for a region whose borders face their severest test since the fall of the Ottomans. Ankara could hold the key.

Turks of all persuasions, brought up with the memory of predatory Europeans trying to dismember their country, fear a pan-Kurdish drive for an independent homeland that would bite off southeast Turkey. Such an event would call into question all post-Ottoman frontiers – and surely lead to more incidents like last week’s Paris murders.

Yet, if Mr Erdogan’s Turkey wants both to head off this danger and establish its democratic claim to regional leadership, it must find a way of meeting Kurdish demands inside its borders. That would give an important political and moral lead in how to accommodate the legitimate rights of all minorities, not just in Syria and Iraq but across a region in transitional turmoil.


No comments yet — be the first.

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s

%d blogueurs aiment cette page :