As the New Year began, we were presented with a scenethat raised expectations in the struggle against terror and led to the blossoming of hopeful feelings across the country. But anyone who looks carefully at all the analysts who tried to give the impression thatthey were relying on sources in the government, will detect that the Prime Minister and his close adviser, Yalçın Akdoğan, have rather kept their distance from them.
Look carefully at their speeches and articles, and it will not escape your notice that both men are uneasy about the way the threshold of expectations has been raised. Whenever there is a hint of spring in the air too early, there always a risk of early frost which might destroy the blossom and prevent fruiting.
Peace processes of this sort are alwaysprone to trigger events outside government control – the murders in Paris are an example. So premature rejoicing and allowing expectations to rise potentially increases the risks and dangers, and consequently the damage to the peace process.
More than one special interpretation may be placed on the Prime Minister’s words “This peace process is like a litmus paper—and it is also a test of sincerity.” One of the most controversial aspects of the peace process which began in 2009 and the Oslo talks which later turned out to have been going on behind the scenes was the fact that the PKK interlocutors were told that the organisation’s bombers had entered the country and filled its metropolitan cities with bombs.
This new peace process will evidently be handled in a very different wayfrom its predecessor as far as both tactical and strategic aspects are concerned.
In the 2009 talks contained a weakness: nothing was said about the restructuring of the organisation as the KCK and there were hopes that this implied that a democratisation was under way and that therefore its armed operations would be limited. This time that weakness will not happen. In a recent speech at Gaziantep, the Prime Minister declared: “For as long as the terrorist organisation does not put down its arms and end its attacks, we shall carry on unrelentingly and resolutely with the fight against terrorism. “ This shows what is different about the new period.
Drawing lessons from the past
If the organisation adopts an ambivalent posture, then this time the Turkish authorities are not going to be caught unawares. It is not going to expose itself to surprise attacks like those at Silvan, Iskenderun, Kumrular, and Reşadiye. On the contrary, it will respond firmly in a manner that inflicts heavy losses on the organisation, just as happened after the Çukurca.
But if the organisation wishes to send its militants across the border, then unlike what happened in the 1999 talks, the security forces will not conduct any operations against militants withdrawing. This idea is reinforced by the Prime Minister’sother remarks in the same speech in Gaziantep:“The terrorist organisation should do whatever it needs to in order to withdraw outside the country and to lay down its arms. We will give it all the support we can.”
So one may extract the following conclusions from those sections of the new road map to do with security and the Prime Minister’s speeches:-the organisation will not be permitted to have arms in the towns and so there will be total political support and determination behind every single operation against any kind of activities it carries out inside Turkey. The onlyexception movements by it to withdraw outside Turkey will be treated as an.
The only way to stop all this hopefulness being nipped in the bud and prevent the current spring atmosphere turning into autumn, is to forestall provocative actions and traps. One way to prevent them is for the security forces to be on guard and another is for the PKK to withdraw from Turkey. The Prime Minister has often referred to a ‘test of sincerity’ and the crux of this is whether or not the organisation will leave the country.
*The original version of this piece was published in Turkish Habertürk Newspaper on 21 January 2013.