News / Middle East

Analysts See Chance for Peace in New PKK Overture

Thousands of  PKK supporters demonstrate with flags and posters of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, in southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey,  March 21, 2013.
Thousands of PKK supporters demonstrate with flags and posters of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, in southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, March 21, 2013.
Pamela Dockins
Turkey and the rebel Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, are in the early stages of what could become negotiations to end nearly three decades of bloody struggle.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has called for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of armed PKK militants from Turkey.

There have been previous attempts to end the conflict, but regional experts say the new peace overtures look promising. Analysts say both Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and PKK leader Ocalan are motivated to resolve the conflict.

Soner Cagaptay is the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He said on VOA's Encounter program that  Erdogan has broad political ambitions and wants to put Turkish-Kurdish unrest behind him.

"He wants to become president.  He wants to make sure that terrorism and violence do not become 'issue number one' because then, there is no way that he’ll be elected as president," said Cagaptay.

Cagaptay also said the prime minister wants to raise Turkey's international stature - another goal that increases his desire for a negotiated settlement.

"He wants to make Turkey a regional power.  I think he realizes that Turkey cannot rise and become a regional power if it has this ongoing festering conflict," he said.

Center for American Progress policy analyst Matt Duss agrees. He said both Erdogan and Ocalan have an interest in resolving the conflict.

Duss added that Ankara's bid to host the 2020 Olympics could serve as an incentive for both sides to seek peace.

"Clearly, Turkey is making a major play for the Olympics and they understand that, among other issues, the Kurdish issue is one that hurts them and if they are able to resolve this, it increases their chances. So I would say Ocalan is probably smart enough to know that this was an opportune moment for him to step forward and offer this opportunity," he said.

Duss said he is "cautiously optimistic" that talks between the PKK and Turkish government will go forward. He said such progress could be beneficial for Kurds struggling for national identity in neighboring Iran, Iraq and Syria.

"The Kurds have consistently been the losers in the various machinations of the Middle East over the past century, century-and-a-half. This is an ethnic group that has found itself divided between these various countries," said Duss.

Although Kurds have struggled in much of the region, one potential sign of progress is in Iraq.

Turkey's reliance on oil imports has prompted it to forge ties with the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq.

Cagaptay said Turkey's trade relations with Kurds in the oil-rich and largely autonomous region of Iraq could be a catalyst for it to improve relations with Kurds at home and elsewhere in the region.

"If Turkey makes nice with its own Kurds, after having made nice with Iraqi Kurds, and is now looking to build influence in Syria, it is a way for Turkey to also build influence among the Syrian Kurds," he said.

Earlier this month, Turkey gave another indication that it is serious in its efforts to resolve the Kurdish conflict.

The government announced the creation of a committee of so-called "wise people" -  more than 60 men and women from various backgrounds. The committee members are traveling across Turkey to promote an end to the strife between the government and PKK rebels that began in the early 1980s.  The conflict has resulted in nearly 40,000 deaths.

The PKK initially demanded an independent Kurdish state, but later limited its goals to greater autonomy and cultural rights for Kurds.

The Turkish government has met some of the Kurds' demands.  Erdogan's administration has approved measures that include new language rights and a Kurdish-language television station.

Even so, it is still too early to tell if these incremental steps and the new overtures from PKK leader Ocalan can help ease he tensions that have strained relations between Turkey and its Kurdish population.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid