A panel convened by Medya News and the Kurdish Peace Institute, a Washington-based research and policy institute, focused on exploring routes toward re-opened peace talks and a negotiated political settlement between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government.
Panellists discussed developments and attempts at negotiation over the past 39 years of armed conflict, the 2013-2015 peace talks between the two parties to the conflict, the unilateral 2023 ceasefire declared by PKK following the deadly Syria-Turkey earthquake, and how both parties and external forces could contribute to the pursuit of a negotiated settlement. You can listen the full conversation which took place on Twitter Spaces, here.
The panel was moderated by freelance journalists Matt Broomfield and Robin Fleming. Fleming opened the discussion by saying: “If the past four decades have taught us anything, it’s that this conflict cannot be resolved through security or anti-terrorism measures alone. Rather, there’s an urgent need for a political settlement leading to enduring peace, stability, and prosperity.”
Leading Kurdish political figures in Europe shared first-hand knowledge of previous rounds of dialogue and negotiation. Addressing the way in which previous rounds of peace talks had been instigated, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) representative to the Council of Europe Fayik Yagizay said:
“Öcalan can be a crucial part of finding a solution. We know that Erdoğan is not sincere in his attempts at dialogue, but always thinks about his interests, how to stay in power. When he had some problems between [his Justice and Development Party] AKP and the Gulen movement, he needed some other option, and so he started dialogue with the Kurdish movement. The Kurdish movement, and Kurdish people in particular, forced Erdoğan to start peace talks.”
Adem Uzun, a executive committee member of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) umbrella organisation, explored reasons behind the collapse of the recent bout of peace talks, noting:
“Erdoğan wanted to use these peace negotiations to marginalise his opponents, and to advance himself within the Turkish system, in the military, judiciary, and legislature, and get political and economic support from the international community. In his propaganda, he said he wanted peace, that he wanted the support of the European Union, of the US, of the West, to gain their support and to get domestic support from 20 million Kurds.”
The panel also heard input from analysts focused on the Kurdish issue. Calvin Wilder from the New Lines Institute addressed the longer-term factors behind the 2023 ceasefire, saying:
“Turkey’s military capabilities have really expanded a lot over the past ten years. The drone strike capabilities, coupled with expanded Turkish based across northern Iraq, has expanded Turkey’s ability to put pressure on the PKK. This has really incentivised the PKK to de-escalate, and find opportunities to de-escalate: but the unfortunate thing is it’s persuaded Erdoğan it’s possible to pursue a military solution to the conflict.”