Ankara could restart peace talks should PKK lay down arms: Minister

Cavusoglu's statement is a first regarding the possibility of peace since the 2015 dramatic collapse of peace talks, as President Erdogan has since taken a more hardline, nationalistic, and militarily pro-active approach in countering the PKK.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey expects the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to lay down weapons, a primary condition for any revival of the previously failed peace talks with the group, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

“We took enormous risks to start [the] peace process,” Cavusoglu told the German DPA news agency about the 2013-2015 ceasefire and negotiations between the Ankara government and PKK that is waging a decades-long guerrilla warfare against the Turkish state for larger Kurdish rights and self-rule.

Cavusoglu’s statement, albeit conditional, is a first regarding the possibility of peace since the mid-2015 dramatic collapse of the talks.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration has since taken a more hardline, nationalistic, and militarily pro-active approach in countering the PKK’s thousands of fighters and the larger Kurdish “question.”

The Turkish FM pointed out that Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had a difficult time managing the Turkish public’s reaction to the then talks.

“Even our supporters criticized us,” he said, going on to accuse the PKK of exploiting the situation and turning population centers into a theater of war.

He claimed that the Kurds, who since the foundation of the Republic over 90 years ago demand constitutional recognition of linguistic, cultural, and administrative rights, were “first-class citizens enjoying full rights” in Turkey.

The PKK and Turkey committed to the process until President Erdogan refused to honor a roadmap for peace known as the “Dolmabahce Deal.”

The agreement was drafted by the AKP and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), an opposition party now facing Erdogan’s ire with its Co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, eight other lawmakers, and over 80 mayors in prison over alleged ties with Kurdish rebels.

Demirtas, along with the PKK’s imprisoned founder Abdullah Ocalan, was instrumental during the process.

The government, on the other hand, charges the PKK with ending the talks by unilaterally declaring autonomy in dozens of cities where it employed hundreds of fighters from its youth wing.

The past two-and-a-half-years’ violence brought immense human suffering and infrastructural destruction in several Kurdish provinces, among them Mardin, Diyarbakir, Sirnak, and Hakkari where over 2,000 PKK fighters, members of Turkish government forces, and civilians were killed.

A March 2017 United Nations report documented forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture during, in some cases months-long, round-the-clock curfews in the towns of Nusaybin, Cizre, Sur, Yuksekova, Dargecit, Sirnak, Silopi, Idil, Lice, and Silvan.

The report also said half-a-million people were displaced due to the fighting.

Since the 2016 Turkish victory that ended the months-long phase of the urban conflict, the war continues in rural, mountainous areas of northern Kurdistan (Turkey) and the Kurdistan Region whose PKK-held areas frequently come under Turkish air and ground fire.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany