الرئيسية » English Articles » Kurds-Turkey-peace


1. Kurd leader demands greater democracy
2. Turkey PM aims to end PKK fight
3. Turkish PM urges opposition to participate in efforts to solve Kurdish issue
4. Turkey marks 25 years of Kurd rebellion with calls for peace
5. Turkey and the PKK: Edging closer to peace or a road map going nowhere?
6. DTP deputy leader says PKK, Öcalan key to peace
7. Turkish PM sees hope in talks on Kurdish reforms
8. Turkey’s Kurds mark 25 years of their rebellion With an eye on EU membership, Erdogan vows to continue talking
9. KRG welcomes Turkish Govt. efforts to solve Kurdish issue
10. US troop presence urged at Kurdish areas-Odierno seeks to build rapport among groups
11. Turkey’s President Gul gives message of unity
12. Ethnicity, Kurdish songs prevent Tigran’s burial, says DTP deputy
13. Business groups demand new constitution as part of peace plan
14. Kurdish plans win praise of academics
15. Erdoğan backs Gül in Kurdish name dispute
16. Military reaction to Kurdish initiative falls short of opposition expectations
1. Kurd leader demands greater democracy

Web posted at:
ANKARA: Imprisoned rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has called for greater democracy for the Kurdish people in Turkey ahead of unveiling his plan to end the Kurdish conflict, a pro-Kurdish news agency reported yesterday.
“A new process has started, it is as important as the creation of the republic (in 1923) by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” Ocalan told his lawyers in his latest meeting with them at the Imrali prison in northwest Turkey, the Firat news agency said. His lawyers regularly meet him at the prison where he has been serving a life prison term imposed in 1999 for treason. Ocalan, historic leader of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), said that the Turkish republic “is going to become more democratic.”
He called on the Turkish state to “recognise the rights of Kurds to become a democratic nation.”
Ocalan was quoted as saying that the Kurds would recognise the Turkish state. He also confirmed that he had given up his secessionist claims.
“In the past I believed that everything would be solved if we created a state… Now I reject a federation like the one in Iraq,” he was quoted as saying by Firat, which is considered close to the PKK. Iraqi Kurdistan, in northern Iraq and just across the border from Turkey, is virtually autonomous from the government in Baghdad. Most PKK rebels live in mountain camps in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Ocalan had planned to release his peace plan on August 15, the anniversary of the launch of the PKK’s separatist conflict against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed since then.
But the announcement was delayed and is now not expected until later this week.
2. Turkey PM aims to end PKK fight

Friday, 14 August 2009

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country must deal with the problem of Kurdish rebels in Turkey’s south-east.
He gave no details of how this could be done, but his government is seeking opposition support for a negotiated settlement to the insurgency.
His comments came ahead of an expected announcement of a roadmap to peace by the Kurdish separatist group, the PKK.
The banned group is marking the 25th anniversary of its fight for autonomy.
Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) is expected to announce the group’s future plans on Saturday – the anniversary of its first attack.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the 25-year conflict.
“Turkey has to face this problem,” said Mr Erdogan on Friday, without elaborating.
Turkish warplanes have often targeted rebel hideouts in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, where Ankara says some 2,000 PKK guerrillas regularly stage hit-and-run attacks on Turkish territory.
Ankara this year urged Iraq’s Kurdish regional government to expel the PKK from their territory, saying Iraqi authorities must promote efforts to curb the rebels.
Last November, Iraq, Turkey and the US formed a joint committee to assess and address the threat posed by the PKK fighters.
3. Turkish PM urges opposition to participate in efforts to solve Kurdish issue

August 14, 2009
Hürriyet Daily News

ISTANBUL – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that he is ready to try a radical solution to end the Kurdish issue and urged opposition parties to support the government in its initiative.
“Come and do not keep yourself outside of this process,” Erdoğan said in a party meeting in Ankara, referring to the leaders of main opposition parties Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, who have rejected a government request for talks to address the Kurdish issue.
He also wanted the representatives from pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, to refrain from making provocative statements during the process.
Erdoğan said that “Turkey has to face this problem,” but he gave no details of what the government might propose.
4. Turkey marks 25 years of Kurd rebellion with calls for peace

Associated Press Writer
August 15, 2009

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey marked 25 years Saturday since the first Kurdish rebel attacks, with political leaders calling for reconciliation, though the government has yet to offer a new plan for ending the conflict.
Fighting has died down since the 1990s, but the Kurdish conflict remains a drag on Turkey’s drive to modernity and an obstacle to the country’s joining the European Union.
The fighting began on Aug. 15, 1984, when separatist rebels attacked police and military units in the southeastern towns of Eruh and Semdinli before fleeing to bases in northern Iraq.
Since then, some 40,000 people have died as the rebels seek autonomy for Kurds concentrated in Turkey’s southeast.
Kurdish activists held a festival Saturday in Eruh, where extra security forces were deployed.
Speakers appealed for peace, and crowds listened to traditional music at an open-air concert.
Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin called for reconciliation with the country’s Kurdish minority.
“I see a great advantage in putting aside all prejudice,” he said on Turkish television, dismissing nationalist claims that allowing Kurds to have more rights would “divide Turkey.”
Interior Minister Besir Atalay met delegates of 20 non-governmental organizations in Ankara as part of a government effort to rally support for a peace plan that has yet to be announced.
Imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is expected to release his own peace proposals soon through his lawyers.
On Friday, the prime minister said the “time has come for a radical solution” for ending the conflict, and urged the nationalist opposition to back the effort.
“Turkey has to face this problem and solve it through democracy,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “We will take steps at any cost.”
The question of how to persuade thousands of rebels to give up their weapons remains in deep dispute. Demands of the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, include amnesty for its top leaders, but such a deal would infuriate many Turks.
Late Friday, a blast in a trash container killed a night watchman and injured another person in a poor neighborhood of Istanbul.
Istanbul Police Chief Huseyin Capkin said explosives caused the blast, but said it was unclear if it was an act of terrorism. Kurdish militants have carried out attacks to mark the anniversary in past years, but radical leftist and Islamic groups have also staged bombings.
Turkey has taken some steps to assimilate Kurds, who account for about 20 percent of the population of 75 million and dominate the country’s southeast. In January, the first 24-hour Kurdish-language television station was launched, and Erdogan spoke a few words in the nce-banned tongue.
“In the southeast, the problems are not only psychological, sociological. Here, we have military, political, diplomatic problems. Economic problems,” Turkey’s Dogan news agency quoted Erdogan as saying Saturday.
To facilitate peace with Kurds, the government must work to overcome objections from the nationalist opposition.
Nationalist Action Party leader Devlet Bahceli said the PKK were criminals seeking to divide Turkey along ethnic lines.
“The problem of terrorism has become the Kurdish problem,” he said.
Rebels initially sought a separate state, but their political platform has evolved to demands for more cultural and democratic rights for a minority that has long faced state discrimination.
Critics say more must be done to make Kurds feel like real citizens, rather than an alienated minority, and to elevate Turkey into the ranks of stable democracies.
The Kurdish plight is a key issue in Turkey’s troubled bid to join the EU, and a history of human rights violations have shadowed the nation’s efforts to play the role of regional model and mediator.
In the past year, however, Turkey has hosted indirect talks between Syria and Israel, won acclaim for criticizing Israel for Palestinian civilian deaths in the Gaza war, and hosted Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as well as European leaders separately for talks on proposed pipeline projects to ferry energy supplies to the West.
Turkey is also a NATO member and key U.S. ally that has contributed troops to Afghanistan and coordinated with Washington on the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Its navy is involved in anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.
But the Turkish government has yet to provide details of a promised Kurdish peace initiative.
Ruling party lawmakers have said the government could rename thousands of Kurdish villages that have Turkish names, expand Kurdish-language education and remove references to “Turkishness” in defining citizenship. Turkey and the West view the PKK as a terrorist group.
5. Turkey and the PKK: Edging closer to peace or a road map going nowhere?

August 2009
by Thomas James
Kurdish Herald Vol. 1 Issue 4,

There are many wars that seem intractable; wars in which whole generations grow up knowing nothing else. The Troubles of Northern Ireland was one such war, but in 1998 that conflict did find an end, and today Northern Ireland rarely grabs headlines in Britain or the rest of the world.
Another long-lasting and even deadlier war is that between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Lasting 25 years now, it has cost the lives of tens of thousands and left hundreds of thousands of others displaced and destitute.
It is a war of identity and ethnicity that apparently neither side is capable of winning. Begun in 1984 as a reaction to the second-class status of Turkey’s large Kurdish population, it continues to rumble on. While the PKK point to human rights abuses and to the denial of ethnic and cultural rights by Turkey, they and all perceived sympathizers are in return vilified for alleged attacks on Turkish military and civilian targets.
As of late, there are whisperings that some sort of solution to the “Kurdish question”, the root cause of this war, may be at hand. Turkish newspapers are now more than ever dominated by debate on the Kurdish question, and for once, some commentators can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Current hopes rest on a thaw in attitudes from both sides. Turkey and its current ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), are coming around to the idea of a non-military solution. Turkish President Abdullah Gul, formerly a high ranking member of the AKP, has spoken of an “historic opportunity” to resolve the Kurdish question and move the country away from it’s past. Over the past few days, certain features of the government’s initiative have apparently been leaked to the Turkish press, though the government is apparently still working out the details of this plan.
On the other side of the fence, and deep in the mountainous border areas of south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and western Iran, the PKK seems increasingly keen to take the initiative to engage in an honest dialogue with Turkey in hopes of reaching a solution. At the same time, the PKK strongly rejects any attempt to find a solution that does not include input from the PKK or its supporters.
On April 13 of this year, the PKK entered into a unilateral ceasefire, pledging not to launch offensive operations. In an interview with this writer, Bozan Tekin, a PKK Vice President and Spokesman for Murat Karayilan – the acting military leader of the PKK – said that the ceasefire is an attempt to “open ways for a peaceful and democratic solution for the Kurdish people.” The ceasefire has now been twice extended, most recently from July 15 to September. A PKK statement of July 15 explained that this was to give time to “prepare the ground” for a roadmap to peace to be issued by their imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
Speaking from the Qendil Mountains on the Iraqi side of the Iran-Iraq border, Tekin also explained that the huge success of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), accused by Turkish politicians as being close to the PKK, in Turkish provincial elections this past March had “demonstrated the will of the Kurdish people to find a democratic solution to the conflict”. Emboldened by the DTP successes, Tekin added, “The solution of the Kurdish question is very near, yet the other parties have to sense this”.
On the Turkish side, there is also an increasing will to solve its Kurdish question and in recent years steps have been taken to reverse an institutionalised policy that left Kurds deeply marginalized. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s vision of modern Turkey allowed little to no room for recognition of the cultural identity of the country’s significant Kurdish population, and a number of Kurdish resistance movements were formed following the founding of Ataturk’s republic. The PKK, which was officially established in 1978, is the latest, and perhaps most significant incarnation of the Kurdish protest movement in modern Turkey.
Turkey’s political and military establishment has long been suspicious of Kurdish political aspirations for autonomy or independence, either from within Turkish borders or from the Kurdish areas of Iran, Iraq or Syria. Indeed, Turkey has even viewed Kurdish movements outside of the national borders as targeting Turkey itself. The post-Ottoman battle for newly-born Turkey’s territorial integrity left many Turks deeply sensitive to the possibility of Kurdish self-rule or independence, and thus any negotiations with Kurdish rebels draw fierce criticism from a significant portion of Turkey’s ruling establishment and population.
Recent statements from state officials including Army Chief of General Staff, Ilker Basburg, suggest that the Turkish government realizes that the Kurdish question cannot be solely resolved through military means. Yet the violence continues on both sides and the government has refused to open talks with the DTP, despite their clear support from ordinary Kurds, most recently seen in Turkey’s nationwide municipal elections.
Years of bitter conflict have resulted in deep recriminations and suspicions on both sides. Thus, any resolution will be painfully difficult to come by for many on either side of the conflict. If the Kurds choose to push for a road map to a solution authored by Abdullah Ocalan, it may be unacceptable for many Turks regardless of the content. Currently serving a life sentence as the sole inmate on the Turkish island of Imrali, Ocalan is much reviled figure among Turks and is often referred to as a “baby killer”.
There has recently been a great deal of talk in the Turkish press of the government pre-empting Mr. Ocalan’s road map with a plan drawn up by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). That said, despite increasing optimism, it is important to note how far apart the two sides remain and how the years of often brutal violence have created a climate of deep distrust.
During the interview with this writer in May, Bozan Tekin outlined the conditions for peace and the laying down of PKK arms. Tekin listed the PKK demands as including freedom for Abdullah Ocalan, freedom of identity for Kurds, democratic autonomy within Turkey “on the Basque model”, and of an end to the village guard system set up by Turkey to combat the PKK.
Recent statements from PKK officials confirm these conditions, and analysts think that it is likely that Ocalan’s forthcoming roadmap will be broadly based on these. However, his freedom is unlikely to be granted, and the prospect of democratic autonomy will not wash well in a country seemingly obsessed with territorial integrity.
Indeed, one US academic and Kurdish affairs expert, Dr. Michael Gunter, recently commented that despite progress, “Turkey remains too far removed from being ready fully to satisfy what the Kurds ultimately want and that is recognition of the Kurds as co-stakeholders in modern Turkey.”
Dr. Gunter expressed his doubts on the roadmap, and speculated that any progress would be “incremental” at best. News of the extended ceasefire and Ocalan’s roadmap has gained a mixed reception in Turkey, but many are cautiously optimistic.
Ayhan Bilgen, editor at Gunluk newspaper and spokesman at the Turkey Peace Parliament, greeted the news positively, noting that Ocalan may be able to help encourage people to lay down their arms. However, he also offered a note of caution, warning: “People should not expect these problems that have festered for years to be solved with a magic wand.”
Despite the ceasefire, there continues to remain some skirmishes between rebel group and the Turkish military. Some view this as an indication that the rebel organization may not be entirely keen on halting violence. Indeed, an ex-PKK member stated that a peace deal remained far off, as some PKK elements were committed to continuing the armed struggle. However, PKK leaders contend that the rebels are acting in pure self-defense, and Karayilan apologized for the deaths that have resulted from the skirmishes in a recent interview this year.
Nonetheless, judging by the protracted history of the conflict, it seems that although the road to be peace has begun, it is likely to be a long one, with many setbacks along the way.
Thomas James is a freelance journalist with an M.A. in International Relations. He previously studied Arabic at the University of Damascus and has lived and reported from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
6. DTP deputy leader says PKK, Öcalan key to peace

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Doğan News Agency

Efforts to isolate the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan are doomed to fail, and without them there can be no peace, said the deputy leader of the pro-Kurdish party.
Speaking in the eastern town of Iğdır, Democratic Society Party, or DTP, deputy leader and Mardin deputy Emine Ayna, seen as a hawk in the pro-Kurdish party, said some were using the DTP in an effort to isolate and ignore the PKK and Öcalan. “If there is an effort to talk to the DTP in order to ignore the PKK or Öcalan, we will not allow it,” she said.
The government announced late in July that it was in the process of formulating an initiative to address the concerns and demands of Kurdish citizens. Interior Minister Beşir Atalay was placed in charge of the effort. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Atalay met with DTP leader Ahmet Türk and Ayna in Parliament last week.
Ayna said the meeting between the mothers of fallen soldiers and the mothers of PKK militants in Diyarbakır last Saturday was more important than the DTP meeting with the prime minister or the president.
“What the president or the prime minister says doesn’t matter. Peace will only come from the people’s strength,” she said.
On the meeting with Erdoğan, Ayna said she could not divulge any information about the content of the conversation. “It was a calm and diplomatic dialogue. However, we were encouraged by his remark, ‘We don’t want any more devastated mothers,’” she said.
Ayna noted that PKK leader Öcalan would be announcing his own road map for peace, adding that the party believed it would be key to any resolution.
Daily Radikal meanwhile reported that Öcalan’s lawyers would announce his “plan” at Eruh, where the PKK’s first armed attack took place, on Aug. 15, the anniversary of that date.
7. Turkish PM sees hope in talks on Kurdish reforms

06 August, 2009

ANKARA: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said rare talks with the head of a Kurdish party yesterday had boosted hopes for a government attempt to address the decades-old grievances of Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Erdogan did not detail the contents of the talks or any planned steps to solve the problem, at the heart of a 25-year-old conflict between the state and Kurdish separatist guerrillas that has left more than 40,000 people dead.
“Our nation wants unity, cooperation and solidarity. It wants the mothers’ tears to stop. It wants there to be no blood and death,” he said after talks with Ahmet Turk, head of the parliament-represented Democratic Society Party (DTP).
“We are in a process. I believe that with today’s meeting hopes for the future have increased,” Erdogan said after the hour-long talks. The Interior Ministry is working on the plan together with military and intelligence authorities.
Under pressure from the European Union, which Ankara hopes to join, Erdogan’s AK Party government has expanded cultural rights for Turkey’s 12 million Kurds, a sixth of the population, who have long complained of discrimination by the Turkish state.
But the DTP, which has strong support among Kurds and faces a court bid to close it for alleged links to the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), seeks more far-reaching political reforms. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
The DTP leader, whose party has in the past been kept at arm’s length by other parties in parliament, expressed his support for the reform process.
“All of us face important duties and responsibilities, we will continue our efforts in awareness of this responsibility,” Turk told reporters after the talks.
A report in the mainstream Hurriyet daily said one of the first steps could be to organise the return of some 11,000 Turkish Kurds who have lived at a refugee camp in northern Iraq since fleeing Turkey due to the conflict in the early 1990s.
The report could not be confirmed.
A reduction in tensions in southeast Turkey would improve regional security. Thousands of PKK guerrillas are based across the border in northern Iraq.
Late on Tuesday, Turkish police fired water cannon and teargas to break up a protest by Kurds overnight in support of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, witnesses said.
Police detained 11 people after demonstrators threw petrol bombs and stones at them in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir, security sources said. One police officer was slightly injured.
The protesters, who chanted pro-Ocalan slogans and overturned rubbish containers in the street, had been on a march in support of a “road map” to end the conflict which Ocalan is set to announce on August 15 — the 25th anniversary of the PKK’s first guerrilla attack.
Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk said Ocalan’s name had not been mentioned in the talks between Erdogan and Turk.
8. Turkey’s Kurds mark 25 years of their rebellion With an eye on EU membership, Erdogan vows to continue talking

AFP/Eruh, Turkey
16 August, 2009

About 25,000 Kurds gathered yesterday at the spot where Kurdish rebels launched a bloody insurgency against Turkish rule 25 years ago, calling for a peaceful settlement to the conflict. Led by Kurdish MPs, the crowd flocked to Eruh town, where members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacked army facilities on August 15, 1984, killing one soldier and marking the start of a violent self-rule drive.
Some carried portraits of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and brandished banners glorifying the rebel chieftain as songs praising the PKK blared from loudspeakers.
“We support the roadmap for peace,” one banner read, referring to a “roadmap for a democratic solution” that Ocalan is expected to announce soon.
Speaking at the gathering, organised as a culture festival, Kurdish lawmaker Osman Ozcelik cautioned Ankara that peace efforts would fail if Ocalan and the PKK were overlooked. “One cannot resolve the problem without the leader of the Kurds,” he said.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has said it is working on a fresh reform package aimed at expanding Kurdish freedoms and eroding popular support for the rebels.
Ankara rejects dialogue with the PKK, which it lists as a terrorist group, but Kurdish activists insist the PKK should be part of the settlement.
A rebel commander urged Kurdish youths on Saturday to join the PKK ranks, saying Ankara’s reform pledges should not be taken for granted, in remarks carried by the pro-PKK Firat news agency.
“Young people should know their place is in the mountains, in the field of action… They should be at the forefront, with the defence
forces,” Nurettin Sofi said.
He stressed the PKK would heed Ocalan’s peace proposals and welcomed a nationwide debate on how the conflict should be resolved, but warned that “we should take precautions not to fall in a trap,” Firat reported.
Ocalan, serving a life sentence since 1999, was expected to unveil his “roadmap” on Saturday, but his lawyers said he had not yet completed the plan.
Ankara, for its part, has remained tight-lipped on the content of the reform plan, while struggling to win the support of civic groups and a hostile opposition, which argues that broader Kurdish freedoms will threaten Turkey’s unity.
Erdogan vowed yesterday the government would not be discouraged by the objections.
“Some people say it will not be possible for us to take these steps. But we have made a decision… We must overcome this problem,” he said in Istanbul.
Eager to boost its EU bid, Turkey in recent years granted the Kurds a series of cultural freedoms, including the inauguration of a public Kurdish-language television in January.
But Ankara has failed to draw up a clear strategy to bring down the rebels from their mountainous bases in Turkey and neighbouring northern Iraq, rejecting also suggestions to grant them a general amnesty.
The conflict, which saw its bloodiest period in the 1990s, has claimed about 45,000 lives and led to human rights violations on both sides, causing mass migration from rural to urban areas and badly damaging the already meagre economy of the impoverished southeast.
9. KRG welcomes Turkish Govt. efforts to solve Kurdish issue


Headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the KRG cabinet held its normal meeting in the presence of deputy premier Mr. Emad Ahmed in Erbil City on Monday August 17th, 2009.
The meeting discussed the successful electoral process in Kurdistan region, praised the role of the ministries of Interior and Peshmerga in achieving security and stability through the elections and thanked the IHEC on its efforts.
The cabinet also discussed the efforts of the Turkish Government to solve the Kurdish issue peacefully.
PM Barzani welcomed these efforts and said “we are happy to see these developments. We support the statements of Turkish President Mr. Abdullah Gul and PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Kurdish issue must be solved in peaceful ways and we are happy for the meeting between PM Erdogan and Ahmet Turk. We call on the Kurdish people in Turkey to welcome these peaceful talks, support them and ensure the suitable situations to make these talks successfulness. We also call on all the Turkish political parties to support these talks for the interests of the Turkish and Kurdish people. Solving this issue will bring security and stability in the Middle East area.”
The meeting decided to allocate residential units in Garmiyan and Barzan areas for the martyrs’ families of Koya, Dukan, Balisan and other areas, which were exposed to al-Anfal operations.
The cabinet also decided to form a “Supreme Committee for Water” under the authorities of KRG premier to supervise the strategy of water in Kurdistan region.
The meeting approved the draft of amending the law of Industrial and Commerce Chambers in Kurdistan region and will send it to the parliament for ratification.
Reported by: Fuad Othman (PUKmedia-Arabic version)
10. US troop presence urged at Kurdish areas-Odierno seeks to build rapport among groups

August 18, 2009
Globe Newspaper

BAGHDAD – The top US commander in Iraq announced yesterday that he would like to station American troops along disputed areas in northern Iraq to build rapport between Iraqi government troops and those under the command of the autonomous Kurdish government.
General Ray Odierno said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is a Shi’ite, Kurdish officials, and provincial officials have been receptive to the idea, which could be implemented this fall.
The plan comes amid rising violence in northern Iraq’s disputed areas, which has heightened tension between the Baghdad government and Kurdish officials. Scores of Iraqis have been killed in bombings in the region in recent weeks.
US and Iraqi officials say Sunni extremists are exploiting the friction between Kurds and Arabs along the disputed areas to consolidate their foothold in northern Iraq.
The deployment of US troops to disputed areas would be a temporary “confidence building measure,’’ Odierno said. It would mark a departure from the withdrawal plan outlined in the security agreement, which called for the pullout of American troops from populated areas by June 30.
“I think they all just feel more comfortable if we’re there,’’ Odierno said.
Several villages in the disputed areas are patrolled by the Pesh Merga, the Kurdish government’s militia, even though they are nominally outside the autonomous region.
Iraqi Army soldiers and Pesh Merga troops have come close to armed conflict in recent months as Baghdad officials have deployed more troops to northern Iraq in an effort to curb Kurdish expansion.
American officials have come to see the rising tension along the 300-mile frontier as the most potentially destabilizing conflict in Iraq. An armed confrontation, they fear, could unleash a civil war as US troops draw down in the months ahead.
Odierno said a committee that includes top officials from Baghdad and the Kurdish government will convene next month to discuss the plan.
He said that the plan would not fundamentally alter the withdrawal timetable, but that a greater percentage of the dwindling US force is likely to be stationed in northern Iraq.
The 130,000-strong force is expected to decrease to 50,000 by next August, and all US troops are supposed to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
11. Turkey’s President Gul gives message of unity

19.08.2009 01:48
Trend News Agency

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday that the country’s unity was the top priority, Anadolu Agency reported.

President Gul attended a reception at Sheraton Hotel in Ankara and replied to reporters’ questions on the democratic move of the government aiming to find a solution to Kurdish issue.

When a reporter said, “there have been developments regarding the democratic move. Interior Minister’s talks are continuing. A road map (will be made public) from Imrali island (where head of PKK terrorist organization Abdullah Ocalan is serving his sentence),” Gul said, “you should forget Imrali. They are not interlocutor.”

President Gul said that every country should solve its problem by itself. “Turkey’s unitary structure must be strengthened as a result of all works under way. No threat must appear in the future, because our unity is the top priority,” he said.
12. Ethnicity, Kurdish songs prevent Tigran’s burial, says DTP deputy

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Doğan News Agency

Famous singer-songwriter Aram Tigran’s background as a Greek citizen of Armenian origin who sang in Kurdish has created the problems in fulfilling his final wish to be buried in Diyarbakır, a pro-Kurdish deputy said Wednesday.
Tigran, who died in Athens on Saturday from a brain hemorrhage, is seen as one of the key figures in Kurdish music, but he also sang and wrote songs in Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Syriac and Turkish. The singer was born in 1934 in Bianda village, in the southeastern province of Batman, before his family moved to the Syrian town of Qaliseli. He started playing the ud, a stringed instrument, at the age of 9. Over his lifetime, he wrote more than 100 songs in Kurdish and Armenian and had a repertoire of 435 songs in various regional languages.
Despite singing in Kurdish for most of his life, Tigran only saw Diyarbakır for the first time in May 2008, when he attended the Diyarbakır Culture and Art Festival and spent two months in the region. Tigran’s wish was to be buried in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, and the city’s metropolitan municipality has mobilized its resources to try and fulfill that request.
The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP’s, Diyarbakır deputy Selahattin Demirtaş said it was a shame that Tigran’s body was kept waiting for five days in Athens. Demirtaş made his remarks at a press conference in Diyarbakır with DTP deputy Aysel Tuğluk and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, He said senior officials’ constant praising of the land’s rich cultural heritage while creating bureaucratic obstacles preventing Tigran’s burial in Diyarbakır was a thought-provoking contradiction.
Approval from the interior, foreign and culture ministries are necessary for the burial of a foreign citizen in Turkey.
People expected that the government would be more supportive, said Demirtaş, adding that if Tigran was not buried in Diyarbakır, the DTP would hold commemorative ceremonies and the family would bury the singer in Brussels.
Baydemir said Tigran had many fans in the city and that the municipality had prepared for the burial. “We want to bid our final farewell to Aram Tigran the way he deserved,” he said
The mayor said they still hoped the obstacles would be overcome to Tigran being buried in Diyarbakır, but added, “It is impossible to keep a body waiting for an undetermined amount of time.”
13. Business groups demand new constitution as part of peace plan

19 August 2009,
Today’s Zaman

Turkey’s two leading business groups have pointed to a new and civilian constitution to replace the current one, drafted under military rule, as the best way to help the country in its democratization efforts.
Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, who is the coordinator of the government’s recent plan to settle the Kurdish issue, yesterday continued his meetings with business associations to discuss the plan and ask for contributions to governmental efforts to solve the decades-old problem. The minister’s first stop was the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK), where he was met by its president, Süleyman Çelebi. After the meeting, Atalay said: “We have experienced big pains concerning this [Kurdish] issue. It is not a wound for which one could prepare a prescription easily.
It is a problem which opened deep wounds and continued for years. It is something we can solve with the support of our society.”
The minister also noted he would benefit from the proposals of famous writer Yaşar Kemal, whom he recently met, saying: “I visited Kemal at his house. We will benefit from his opinions in this process.”
Kemal stands as one of the key figures in the government’s Kurdish initiative. Pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) members also paid a visit to the writer earlier this week to discuss the initiative.
DİSK’s Çelebi noted that he presented a folder to the minister, in which his union included its proposals for a solution. “We have prepared a list of democratic initiatives, including constitutional change. We have to create an atmosphere where everyone can live in peace in Turkey,” he noted.
Çelebi also criticized the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for closing their doors to talks on the initiative. “I have difficulty understanding the stance of some political parties. We have paid a heavy cost for racist and nationalist discourse. We do not want to pay any more costs,” he said.
Atalay later headed to the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), Turkey’s most influential businessmen’s association. During his meeting with TÜSAİD representatives, he underlined that the democratization process was not a project of a single political party. “We can cover distance in this process with help and participation by all political parties. We have full faith and determination. We are exerting our best to succeed,” he noted.
TÜSİAD head Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ said that in order for Turkey to meet higher democratic standards, the country must compromise and create a new constitution.
The minister has met with representatives from Turkey’s nongovernmental organizations and smaller political parties in a move to finalize the government’s plan to settle the long-standing Kurdish question. However, the largest opposition parties have refused to have talks with the minister on the plan.
“Our efforts for a more democratic country are not a product of a political project. It is a project we are working on to let our children live nice days without fear, concerns or terror,” stated Atalay on Monday, after his meeting with a number of columnists.
14. Kurdish plans win praise of academics

Thursday, August 13, 2009
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

A group of 162 journalists, academics, writers, artists and business representatives said they support all efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue through democratic, peaceful and just means in a public statement on Thursday.
The 162 professionals, among whom are writer Adalet Ağaoğlu, researcher Tanıl Bora, Turkish Doctors’ Federation President Gençay Gürsoy and academic Professor Fuat Keyman, said the Kurdish problem had cost Turkey a lot of suffering, both in financial and emotional terms, noting that Parliament had a historic responsibility in ensuring a solution was found.
The statement said every effort to resolve the issue was praiseworthy, condemning those who tried to create obstacles for their own narrow and violent ends.
Speaking on NTV news channel, Ağaoğlu said she believed it was too early to say anything about the government’s Kurdish initiative, but saw it as progress. She said what the government had done until now was correct.
Interior Minister Beşir Atalay said in late July that the government intended to initiate a range of steps to improve democracy and human rights, which would lead to a resolution of the Kurdish issue. He said it would be a long-term process and called on everyone to contribute.
His efforts to meet with various parties and nongovernmental groups led to mixed results, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, refusing to meet him.
The current steps were gestures rather than concrete steps, said Bora, but added they are gestures that can build trust and confidence. “Dismissing these gestures will hurt efforts but such gestures should be followed up with concrete steps or they will lead to disappointment,” he said, also speaking to NTV.
Meanwhile, the CHP’s Istanbul branch chairman, Gürsel Tekin, told daily Yeni Şafak on Thursday that steps taken by the government on the Kurdish issue should be supported, contradictory to his party’s stance.
Tekin, known for the CHP’s headscarf initiative heading into the March 29 local elections earlier this year, said one should either support the efforts to solve the Kurdish issue or share the responsibility for it.
“Whoever solves it will be forever remembered by history. That’s the fact,” he said.
Tekin, who was supported by CHP leader Deniz Baykal for his headscarf initiative, said the Kurdish initiative should be above politics, adding that the solution was based on greater democracy.
Economic incentives:
The state minister responsible for the Southeastern Anatolia Project, or GAP, Cevdet Yılmaz, told daily Hürriyet on Thursday that the 3 billion liras to be spent on GAP and other infrastructure projects could be seen as the economic side of the government’s Kurdish initiative.
GAP involves a series of dams in the southeast of the country in an effort to turn the region into the country’s agricultural center, generate electricity and create jobs.
He said a law just passed by Parliament would allow 4 billion liras generated by the interest on the unemployment fund to be transferred to the budget and the 3 billion to be used in the GAP project.
“Economic measures are even more important than the cultural and social ones,” he said.
15. Erdoğan backs Gül in Kurdish name dispute

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Hürriyet Daily News

Hurriyet Daily NewsPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has backed the president’s move to call a southeastern Anatolian district by its original Kurdish name.
Over the weekend, President Abdullah Gül, visiting the province of Bitlis, referred to its Güroymak district as “Norshin” in Kurdish.
“Our president was criticized because he said ‘Norshin’ in reference to the Güroymak district of Bitlis. Open [the book] of Atatürk’s address to the nation and see how he referred to the residents of Norshin,” Erdoğan said Tuesday. “He says ‘Norshin’ and ‘the people of Norshin,’” added the prime minister. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founder of the modern Turkish Republic.
In an address to his countrymen in his Black Sea region hometown, Erdoğan said: “We are continuing this fight for Turkey’s national unity and integrity. And hopefully, we will maintain this unity and integrity. Therefore, we are knocking on every door and writing letters to the main opposition.”
Opposition parties, the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, have rejected a government request for talks on addressing the Kurdish problem.
Erdoğan said, “We are not discriminating, and we will not discriminate,” and added: “Take a look at what the MHP leader says. … I believe that my brothers from the MHP are also uneasy.”
Erdoğan then referred to a previous statement in which MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli warned that people would soon be calling Güneysu “Potamia,” or referring to Istanbul as “Constantinople,” adding, “Sorry, but my country’s people know how to address to what or whom. They will not learn from you.”
He stressed, “We will not walk toward the future with contaminated agenda
16. Military reaction to Kurdish initiative falls short of opposition expectations

09 August 2009, Sun

The preference of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to remain silent on the government’s most recent Kurdish initiative has become a source of disappointment for Turkey’s opposition parties, which were expecting the military to demonstrate a strong reaction against the initiative
Leaders of the opposition parties — the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -– believe the military’s silence on government plans to settle the long-standing Kurdish question means indirect support of the initiative.
The government has recently been working on a comprehensive plan to solve the decades-old Kurdish question. Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, also the coordinator of the initiative, did not offer much detail on the plan but just said it would enable Kurdish citizens to enjoy broader cultural rights.
The opposition has, however, expressed disapproval of the efforts being made toward a solution. The MHP said it would never be a party to ongoing efforts to that end, adding that it would consider every person who contributes to the Kurdish initiative a “traitor.”
The CHP criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for meeting with representatives from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), claiming that the prime minister held talks with an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).Since there has been a lack of comments or reactions from the TSK against the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) efforts to prepare the necessary atmosphere for the solution to the Kurdish question, the CHP believes the military is maintaining its silence due to pressure from the United States. The MHP, on the other hand, believes the ongoing probe into Ergenekon — a clandestine terrorist organization accused of plotting to overthrow the government – is forcing the TSK to refrain from expressing its opinion on the Kurdish initiative.
During a reception he attended on Aug. 2, Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ said the Turkish military would give a message on the Kurdish initiative if it feels the need for it.
According to analysts, the military’s silence, so far, on the Kurdish initiative is a strong sign that the TSK has finally understood that methods used until now will no longer help fight terrorism and will not solve the Kurdish problem.
“Thus, the TSK prefers to allow the political authorities to settle the problem. The military remains silent on the initiative because it does not wish to accept the Democratic Society Party [DTP] or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] as an interlocutor in the solution. If the ruling party becomes successful and settles the problem, then army members will act as if they supported the initiative by keeping silent. If the ruling party fails, then they will back opposition parties in their reaction against the government plan on the Kurdish question,” analysts stated.
Eye-catching change in the military’s stance
The military has recently seen a considerable change in its position against Kurdish citizens.
Army chief Başbuğ stressed during a press conference on April 15, 2009 that the Republic of Turkey was founded by the “public of Turkey.” Dwelling on this definition, he recalled a quote by the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who once said, “The public who established the Republic of Turkey is called the public of Turkey.”
Başbuğ also called on the state to make necessary amendments to the law to enable PKK members to lay down arms and leave the mountains. “A terrorist is also a human,” he said.
The TSK’s “humanistic” attitude toward Kurds was followed in late July by a visit by three gendarmerie officers who conveyed their condolences to the families of two DTP members who were found dead.
All this pointed to an eye-catching change in the position of the military toward Kurdish citizens. In the past, TSK members did not attend receptions given in Parliament as DTP officials were in attendance.
CHP contradicts its past Kurdish initiative
A staunch opposition by CHP leader Deniz Baykal toward the government’s efforts to settle the Kurdish question contradicts his party’s past similar initiatives.
In a December 2007 speech, Baykal underlined that Turkey’s relations with northern Iraq should not be deemed restricted to terrorism. He called on the government to devise plans for the upcoming decades concerning northern Iraq in the fields of economy and trade. He also asked government officials to bring Kurdish youths from northern Iraq to Turkey for them to receive education in Turkish universities.
Similarly, during his visit to southeastern Şanlıurfa ahead of the March 29, 2009 local elections, the CHP leader said he welcomed the presence of all ethnicities in Turkey.
“We have Arabs, Albanians, Kurds and Caucasians. People’s different ethnicities inflict no damage on our state. Everyone should be allowed to learn their mother tongue and have TV stations and newspapers in their own language. Ethnicities are a source of honor for the state,” he said.
The main opposition party has, however, recently removed a democratization and human rights report created in 1999 from its Web site.
The CHP’s democratization report, which has been on the party’s Web site since the day the site went live, includes the stipulation that Turkey needs a new and more democratic constitution to replace the 1982 Constitution, usually regarded as a remnant of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’etat.
MHP believes Ergenekon probe behind military’s silence
According to the MHP, the TSK is silent in the face of the government’s plans to settle the Kurdish question because of the ongoing Ergenekon investigation.
Currently several members of the military, including retired generals, are in jail pending trial on charges of planning a coup d’etat against the government.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli accused the government of trying to break down and divide the country. Bahçeli claimed that his party and supporters were ready to go to the mountains for 50 years to prevent the separation of the country.
“If you want to let those who have been in the mountains for 25 years divide the country, there is the MHP, which is ready to live in the mountains for 50 years to prevent it,” he said.
The DTP, on the other hand, believes that Turkey would not reach a full solution to the Kurdish question unless efforts to that end are supported by the CHP and the MHP.
“If the Kurdish question is to be discussed and solved on a political platform, then the contributions of the CHP and the MHP are of the utmost importance. This is a period of discussion, and we all need to approach it with good will. We should keep this discussion going [until the solution],” stated Selahattin Demirtaş, the DTP’s parliamentary group chairman.