Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's government has declared that Kurdish militants in Turkey have been dragging their feet for the past one and a half years but that the Turkish administration is intent on pushing forward with the reconciliation process and creating an atmosphere of peace between Turks and militant Kurds as well as their supporters.
Davutoğlu said the PKK has not pulled its militants out of Turkey to the mountains of Northern Iraq despite repeated promises and that while there was general peace throughout the country, the PKK continued its campaign to burn construction machinery, stall projects and torch schools. This is true. The PKK did not trust the government and kept its militants inside Turkey while committing acts of terrorism without actually killing people. As a result, Turkish authorities and the public displayed patience seeing that the general peaceful atmosphere had created a positive environment that could lead to a solution of the Kurdish issue.
Kurdish militants, on the other hand, accuse the government of acting too slowly to satisfy Kurdish demands and thus say the atmosphere of general mistrust prevails among the rank and file of the PKK. Whenever there is a violent PKK outburst, imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on treason charges on İmralı Island, sends a message to the Kurds and the unrest suddenly dies down.
So the reconciliation process takes two steps forward and one step back, but still survives because both Turks and Kurds in Turkey have seen the dividends of peace and no one wants to rock the boat. It takes sensible people in the government led by Davutoğlu and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Chief Hakan Fidan to pacify the Kurds and ease their anger as well as keep Turkish nationalist elements in the state apparatus and the political arena at bay. However, it is Öcalan who continues to call the cards for Kurds, and it also seems time is running out for the reconciliation process as it is becoming increasingly difficult for the PKK leader to keep the Kurds at bay.
Davutoğlu is a sharp person who has seen the storm clouds on the horizon and is taking steps to avoid a storm. He met with the Wisemen Committee on Sunday and discussed the issue.
The indicators of the storm came when pro-PKK sympathizers took to the streets to protest what they called Turkey's inactivity against the extremist fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacking the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani. The violence unleashed by the PKK on the streets of Turkish cities and their clashes with anti-PKK crowds resulted in the deaths of 36 people and billions of liras of material damage. But it also had a psychological effect on Turkish society where moderate Turks started questioning the merits of the reconciliation process and accused the government of turning a blind eye and even paying lip service to the spoiled attitude of the PKK.
So the Wisemen Committee was called back to diagnose the trouble and keep the reconciliation process on a healthy course. Davutoğlu told the members of the committee that the government cannot take any meaningful steps to appease the Kurds as long as public order is not properly established. Militant Kurds want the government to speed up the process of reconciliation by giving them more rights and facilities. The government wants Kurds to adhere to the laws and take particular care that public order is not spoiled like in the past one and a half years.
The committee asked the government to directly address Öcalan and make public his views directly without any intermediaries. This means more freedom for Öcalan and a direct channel to the Turkish public. The government could only approve such a thing if it sees militant Kurds acting with more sincerity and responsibility.
The committee has told the government a new approach is needed with them as well other experts and intellectuals to create a more institutionalized group to look into the issue and come up with practical steps that may not please the Turkish administration.
The government has to find a balance between taking meaningful steps that will lead to a final solution and thus appease the Kurds while also satisfying Turkish public opinion. This is easier said than done, especially as parliamentary polls are only eight months away. That is why some people are even starting to talk about early elections to give the government a freer hand to deal with the Kurds after the polls.