The ongoing debate that is centered on the 10-point plan prepared by the government and the Kurdish political movement, which represents the militant and armed Kurds, should not be regarded as a setback in the peace and reconciliation process between the Turkish state and its militant Kurds.
The debate that has been going on for the past week has created the impression that despite the fact that Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan and Interior Minister Efkan Ala have come together with the three representatives of the People's Democracy Party (HDP) at Dolmabahçe Palace, and made a joint public statement that both sides had agreed on a 10-point plan on what issues will be addressed at the negotiations on the peace and reconciliation process, it is in fact heading for the rocks. At the Dolmabahçe gathering, the Kurdish side also read out a message by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who called on the PKK to convene a congress in spring and decide to lay down its arms, effectively ending the armed activities of the Kurdish militants.
So after these historic declarations, as it was the first time that government officials and representatives of the Kurdish militant movement made a joint statement, it was only natural that a fiery debate would erupt on all sides.The opposition, especially the ultra-conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), declared the Dolmabahçe a total sell out and an act of treason on the part of the government. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) half-heartedly approved the statement but also stressed it had reservations.But the real debate erupted among those who had actually devised it and are running the peace and reconciliation process, which raised eyebrows. Only an hour after the Dolmabahçe statement, the HDP's co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş lambasted the government for insincerity, and has been continuing his accusations.
The battle of words and the mixed signals coming from the Kurdish militants as well as the politicians suggested that there is actually strong disagreement between the militant Kurds and the government, as well as divisions among the Kurdish politicians and the PKK militants. It was said that the HDP is divided on the issue as well, as there is a discord between PKK leader Öcalan and the PKK militant leadership holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq.
The militant Kurds say that the 10-point plan and its issues have to be resolved first before they actually lay down their arms. The government says firstly the arms should be laid down and then the legal arrangements can be brought to life.
In fact, it seems whether intentional or unintentional, the government and the Kurds are both playing for time. They are, on the one side, trying to appease their own public opinions that they are not selling out, and that they are serious about the peace process, while at the same time, they see very clearly that due to impracticalities and impossibilities, the legal arrangements that are needed cannot be carried out as Parliament is about to go into elections recess at the end of this month and both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the HDP will be concentrating on the elections campaign rather than the details of the peace and reconciliation process. So let alone legislating anything to bolster the peace process, both sides will hardly be able to find time to negotiate the 10-point plan that will actually lead to these legal arrangements.
Several months ago, I had said in this column that it was impossible to legislate the necessary laws to bolster the peace process, as time was running out for the Parliament that would head for parliamentary polls in June. We were right. Now both sides are simply trying to stall because of this reality without antagonizing their voters. That is why they announced the 10-point plan to appease their electorate. In fact, the peace process will only be able to pick up real momentum after the polls. That is the sad reality.