The reconciliation process and the concomitant disarmament of the PKK has been troubled by two developments. The first one was the Dec. 17 operation of 2014. Although Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was still prime minister at the time, Gülen Movement-affiliated prosecutors cited him as "the-then prime minister" in the Dec. 17 case files, in the hope of overthrowing the government with the documents. This triggered a great political crisis. The process, fraught with uncertainty, also confused the PKK, who put the idea of reconciliation into cold storage after the Dec. 17 operation. It suspended the process until such a time as the victors of this political war in Turkey would emerge. If things had gone as planned by the Gülenists, the reconciliation process might have collapsed.
The second development that confused the PKK was the picture that emerged in Syria. The withdrawal from northern Syria by President Bashar Assad, the establishment of cantons there by the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD), ever increasing uncertainty in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham's (ISIS) offensive on Kobani and other subsequent developments further alienated the PKK senior leadership in the Qandil Mountains from the reconciliation process. According to the PKK leadership, it was not feasible for the organization to lay down its arms at a time when chaos prevailed in Syria. When ISIS attempted to seize Kobani, PKK sympathizers in Turkey did not hesitate to set the streets on fire. During the Oct. 6-8 protests, 52 people lost their lives and the reconciliation process almost came to an end.It goes without saying that the Oct. 6-8 incidents undermined the public's faith in peace, since the events generated a great disappointment among people who had set their hearts on peace. Perhaps because of this, the reconciliation process suffered a four-month interruption. It seems that serious negotiations were held between the government and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) within this period, even though they were not disclosed to the public. Following these intense talks, a declaration was delivered at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul on Feb. 28. The HDP delegation that met with Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan read out a message from jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who called on the organization to lay down its arms. Although this message was read out with a delay of 20 days due to the objections of the PKK leadership, it was nevertheless a historic call, and now the reconciliation process is back on track.
What is being discussed on the heels of this call is the question of which steps will be taken in the short run. In a recent news report I compiled for Sabah daily, I cited that the government will take three steps as part of the process. Let us take a look at the particulars of these steps that are now becoming clear.
As the first step, five prisoners who are jailed on İmralı Island with Öcalan will be replaced with five others – a demand that had been put forth by Öcalan. Let me share some information that has not been disclosed to the public. The five prisoners who will be sent to İmralı have been determined. The HDP also proposed names, but two of them were not endorsed by the government. The list of five prisoners has been put into its final form and has been examined by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Sources say that the list awaits confirmation before being implemented. Who these five prisoners are is kept secret, and it is said that they are not figures known to the public.
The second step concerns the formation of a monitoring board that is expected to keep an impartial eye on the course of the reconciliation process. It is said that some celebrities will be included in the monitoring commission – a rumor that has not been confirmed by sources. The current formula of who will constitute the monitoring board points to the Wisemen Committee. For the moment, the government is studying the formula of appointing the regional heads of the Wisemen Committee as board members.
As the third step, 20 to 40 PKK-affiliated prisoners who are ill will be released. This step requires no legislative amendments since a law enacted in 2013 allows the release of sick inmates via a decision of the Institute of Forensic Medicine. It seems that this step will also be taken soon.
The actualization of all these steps will manifest the government's goodwill concerning the reconciliation process. We need to wait until the June 7 general elections, which will be another stepping stone, to advance the reconciliation process. If the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) can form a quorum of parliamentarians in the elections, a new constitution will be brought to the agenda. I suggest that many elements that will expedite the reconciliation process will be discussed as part of a new constitution.