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 Turkish gov't, opposition dialogue gives new momentum to discuss Kurdish issue

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Turkish gov't, opposition dialogue gives new momentum to discuss Kurdish issue  12.6.2012  
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye

The last time Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu met for formal discussions was in 2010. Photo: Reuters
There are some positive signals political parties could get together to discuss the Kurdish issue, but past experiences of disunity leaves many cautiously optimistic.

June 12
, 2012

ANKARA, — At the initiative of the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu came together last week in search of a way forward to discuss deadlock in resolving Turkey's decades-long Kurdish issue.

Without presupposing what a final solution would look like, the ten-point plan put forward by Kilicdaroglu instead outlined steps to create an environment of dialogue within the highly polarised parliament by establishing a multi-party Social Consensus Commission. Parallel to the commission a "Wise Men" group would also be established outside of parliament.

The meeting was significant in itself because the constant mudslinging between the main opposition and AKP has been to the detriment of resolving issues of national importance such as the Kurdish issue. The last time the two leading politicians met to discuss political issues was in July 2010.

Since the meeting both the AKP and CHP have signaled a willingness to work together, but the initiative faces numerous hurdles before it can get off the ground.

As expected, there is strong opposition from the ultra-nationalist MHP, whose participation in the parliamentary commission would be required by parliamentary bylaws for the CHP's initiative to move forward.

Speaking to SES Türkiye, CHP deputy Atilla Kart said: "We hope all the parties will avoid ruining the process, as the problem itself is very real and is getting out of control every single day."

Condemning the initiative, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli denied there is even a Kurdish problem in the country, claiming the idea to form committee of Wise Men was put forward by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

"Our general view is that first we need to fix the terror, and then dialogue can start," MHP deputy Yusuf Ziya Irbec told SES Türkiye, adding that no one should expect any change in the MHP's position.

Unable to get the MHP onboard, at the suggestion of Erdogan the CHP and AKP may go forward outside parliament through the establishment of a "consultative mechanism." This would be huge step for two parties that have shown that the only thing they can agree on is arguing with each other.

The pro-Kurdish BDP has also expressed support for the CHP's initiative and would likely take part in any commission, whether inside or outside parliament. In such an event, an AKP-CHP-BDP commission accounting for nearly 90% of the vote in last year's election would provide substantial legitimacy.

Sirri Sakik, a BDP deputy, told SES Türkiye that although the CHP took an important step, the government needs to "stop pursuing Kurdish politicians if it is really interested in dialogue."

The day after the CHP-AKP meeting police arrested dozens of BDP supporters and six elected mayors, in addition to several high-level city council members. The sweep was part of the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union investigation which has put hundreds of BDP members and dozens mayors on trial for alleged links to the PKK.

"The government needs to prove its sincerity by solving the problem, not by causing more harm," Sakik said.

For Mehmet Suleyman Hamzaogullari, an AKP MP from Kurdish-dominant city of Diyarbakir, the main outcome of last Wednesday's meeting is not the CHP's plan, which he said is "nothing different than what the AKP has been saying all these years," but about the new step towards inter-party dialogue.

"There is a Kurdish problem in this country and if anyone, including MHP leaders, doesn't want to see that, I invite them to come to Diyarbakir," he told SES Türkiye. "It's time for everyone to share the responsibility and work together on stopping the blood."

Published by in cooperation with Southeast European Times.

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