News / Europe

Turkey-PKK Peace Deal Gains Momentum With Regional Implications

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.
TEXT SIZE - +
Dorian Jones
— Peace talks between Turkey's government and the PKK continue to gain momentum.  With large minority Kurdish populations also in neighboring Iraq and Syria, analysts say those countries could benefit from the peace process economically and politically. But such an alliance could at the same time threaten the integrity of Iraq and Syria by fueling a Kurdish push for autonomy or even independence.

Last month's cease-fire announcement by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in its fight against the Turkish state offers the greatest opportunity for peace in the nearly three-decade-long conflict, according to Sinan Ulgen, head of the Turkish research institute Edam. He says ending the conflict would have important implications not only for Turkey, but the whole region.

 "A Turkey that has settled its own differences with its own Kurds will be naturally more disposed [to] establishing alliances with Kurds in the region, be it in northern Iraq or be it in Syria," said Ulgen. "So, in a way, Turkey [is] becoming an even more assertive, influential and confident player regionally."

Neighboring Iraq and Syria, like Turkey, have significant Kurdish minorities. Ankara has already developed strong economic ties with the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government. Those ties are set to deepen with the prospect of a massive energy deal involving the building of oil-and-gas pipelines that would not only supply energy hungry Turkey, but also distribute Iraqi-Kurdish oil and gas to world markets.

Attila Yesilada, an analyst at Global Source Partners, an Istanbul-based research firm, says peace with the PKK is essential to the deal, and adds such an alliance would solve a major economic and diplomatic headache for Ankara.

"Currently, we are almost completely reliant on Russia and Iran, which are, to say the least, volatile neighbors, if not hostile," said Yesilada. "And both are bound to use gas delivery as a negotiation tool.  But if we get gas from [the] Iraqis we would [have] significantly diversified our energy sources. But the PKK is a major problem unless the current 'peace process' reaches fruition. Such pipelines would be [sitting] ducks and essentially just hostages [to] PKK attacks."

But Baghdad claims only the national government can make such energy deals. Washington has expressed concern about the potential deal, claiming it could threaten the integrity of the Iraqi state by fueling secessionist demands by the Iraqi Kurds.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul's Bahcesehir University acknowledges any deepening of the relationship between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds could pose a threat, but says economic prosperity in Iraqi Kurdistan built on its ties with Turkey could strengthen the latter.

"I hope Turkey and Baghdad will be clever enough to properly use this Turkish presence in the north of Iraq to extend this region of peace and stability towards the south of Iraq. The other way is war," said Aktar.

But in an interview last month, senior PKK figure Zübeyir Aydar claimed the peace process could open the door to collaboration between Turks and Kurds across the region that could even lead to a redrawing of Turkey's borders with Iraq and Syria.

Analyst Ulgen says with the region facing growing turmoil, the repercussions of a Turkish-Kurdish alliance could be significant.

"There [are] going to be implications for the region, especially if we take into consideration that the future[s] of nation-states like Iraq and Syria are very much uncertain and that the turbulence and instability we see today might eventually lead to the disintegration of those nation-states," he said.

The current peace process between Ankara and the PKK is still only in its initial stages, with both sides expressing cautious optimism. But observers point out that reaching such a peace agreement could have far-reaching consequences not only for Turkey, but for the whole region.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid