The Kurdish reconciliation process and the Middle East

Published 13.03.2015 00:28

The Kurdish reconciliation process represents a laudatory effort to heal one of Turkey's oldest wounds. It also entails a host of regional implications due to the Kurdish community's presence inside four neighboring countries and due to a number of ruptures that the region has witnessed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. What potential the process entails according to individual nations will directly inform their decisions in the medium run.

Since the 2003 invasion, at least two major perspectives have arisen in the Middle East: The first approach represents a constructive effort with an eye on the entire region - which Turkey initiated via the Neighboring Countries of Iraq meetings. Proponents of this view aim at getting regional actors involved in the transition period to ensure sustainable stability.

The second perspective has given rise to individual efforts to accumulate the maximum amount of power in order to fill the power vacuum that followed revolutions and rebellions. Despite achieving short-term goals, the advocates of this approach not only promoted conflict, but also encouraged outsiders to wage proxy wars across the Middle East. It is difficult to suggest that the Kurdish reconciliation process operates independently of this two-way split. The PKK, a party to the talks, has already called certain shots in Syria and Iraq. They largely opted for the latter approach, which promises short-term gains with little effort, over the exhausting yet constructive former approach.

The reconciliation process represents a roadmap outlining the advantages that the first option entails for Turkey, arguably the only stable country in the region. As such, losing sight of the big prize in order to opt for the second approach would mean little more than committing a series of tragic mistakes. After all, most participants in the conflict currently plaguing Iraq and Syria have not yet found any opportunity akin to the Kurdish reconciliation process. Quite the contrary, those who rode the wave of occupation to the top did everything in their power to spill blood during the transition period. In Syria, the Ba'ath regime turned down what could have been a comfortable way out of the current situation.

The Kurdish reconciliation process goes against the political wave that has become the new convention since 2003. Failure to ride the wave of dialogue will result in opting for a completely unpredictable situation at the center of regional crises. The Middle East is currently witnessing a period where cities can fall overnight, where those who thought themselves untouchable end up fighting for their lives, and others, who had everything, watch their power vanish into thin air. At this point, a number of actors of whose name no-one had heard of just a year ago claim leadership positions in the region. As such, there seems to be little sense in chasing easy points amid region-wide turbulence.

This is not just about the PKK either. Even the KRG, which appears better institutionalized than others, crumbled under similar challenges - which is exactly why the reconciliation process represents the only viable safety switch and roadmap for the region. Opting to partner in such a historic project, in turn, requires a commitment to longer-term perspectives. Otherwise, an effort to maximize one's power through the reconciliation process will not help reach beyond traditional limits of power politics. There is little doubt that trying to save one's own seat means little if the plane cannot land safely.

It would seem extremely difficult to steer clear of such misconceptions, unless regional actors can appreciate the value of Turkey's political stability. The Kurdish reconciliation process alone demonstrates how important the country's contributions are - at home and across the Middle East.

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