PKK pullout halt puts Kurdish bid in danger

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Erdoğan blames the BDP and the PKK for playing ‘good cop-bad cop’ after the latter says it will stop the withdrawal of militants as part of a peace bid

 The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced yesterday that it was halting the pullout of its militants from Turkey, putting the fragile process to find a solution to the decades-long Kurdish problem in jeopardy.

In a statement carried by the Fırat news agency, which is known to have close links with the PKK, the group pledged to maintain a cease-fire for now.

“While the withdrawal is halted, the cease-fire position will be maintained so as to give [the ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP an opportunity to take steps in line with Leader Apo [Abdullah Öcalan]’s project,” the PKK said in the statement.

PKK leader Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on a prison on İmralı island, declared a cease-fire in March after months of talks with the Turkish state. PKK militants began moving to bases located in the north of Iraq two months later under a deal envisaging increased rights for Kurds.

Despite the hurdles in the process, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was upbeat about the peace process in speaking to reporters on his way back from Buenos Aires on Sept. 8.

“I don’t think there will be any major obstacle… What matters is that the [Kurdish] people want this process to continue,” he told reporters. However, he accused the PKK and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) of “playing a good cop-bad cop game.”

“The mountain [the PKK leaders in the bases in Kandil mountains] and the party have been making contradicting statements,” the prime minister said. “I believe that the messages [from İmralı] arrive in the ‘mountain’ late. We are continuing our efforts on the reform package in line with the report of the ‘Wise People’ group.”

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ echoed Erdoğan’s remarks yesterday, dismissing the PKK statement and saying Turkey was determined to take steps toward ending the conflict.

“Whatever the terror organization does is up to them. But Turkey will do whatever needs to be done,” Bozdağ said.

On the BDP side, co-chair Gültan Kışanak said the PKK’s commitment to a cease-fire was a chance to take further steps and speed up the process.

“The Kurdish side has so far warned the government again and again about the possible disruption of the resolution process and a deadlock, and urged it to take steps in order to create an environment of mutual trust, so the suspension of the withdrawal is not an unexpected development,” she said. “We hope the government will make an endeavor to fulfill its responsibilities.”

Öcalan and Ankara launched peace talks last October to halt a conflict which has killed 40,000 people over close to 40 years and reportedly agreed on a three-phase plan. The first phase of the process, the withdrawal of the members of the PKK, started in April. The next phase of the peace process includes a government-sponsored mixed democratization package. The third phase of the process is to secure the open the way for militants to return to  their homes.

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