PKK Sets the Date for Withdrawal from Turkey
According to today’s report on Hurriyet Daily News, The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has announced its withdrawal from Turkey, starting May 8th. The PKK separatists have been fighting the Turkish government for the last three decades, demanding an independent Kurdish state, which resulted in more than 40,000 people’s death.
Announcement came after the jailed leader of the organization, Abdullah Ocalan, declared on March 21st that the PKK would withdraw its militants from the Turkish soil On March 21, after more than four decades of waging war there.
The US, European Union and Turkey designate the group as a terrorist organization because of its attacks on Turkish security forces and civilians.
It is estimated that there are 2,000 PKK militants in Turkey. The group will move to Northern Iraq after leaving Turkish territory.
The senior leader of the organization, Murat Karayılan, said during a press meeting at a PKK base today that any military operation targeting the militants would delay the withdrawal and the militants would retaliate.
Hurriyet Daily News lists the PKK’s conditions for a problem-free withdrawal in a six-item list:
- Its militants will use their usual route during the withdrawal in an organized and disciplined way with their own initiatives and avoiding any clashes, the first item stated, according to the Fırat news agency, which is known to have close ties to the organization.
- According to the ongoing preparations, the withdrawal will start on May 8 and will continue in phases. The process will be finalized “as soon as possible” and in secrecy.
- The withdrawing militants will be deployed to “southern Kurdistan,” which refers to northern Iraq. Karayılan said they expected understanding from the Iraqi authorities, and particularly from the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Turkish military should show a “similar sensitivity,” also avoiding any provocative military action in northern Iraq, he added.
- In the event of any military operations being conducted against the militants, the withdrawal will be halted and the militants will use the “legitimate defense” of the right to retaliate, Karayılan stated.
- A number of other items that were mentioned in a letter to the jailed PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and which are also known by the Turkish authorities, should also be considered, Karayılan added, without giving further details.
- The last item in the list related to the observation by independent groups that could help spot problematic issues regarding the withdrawal.
International implications of the withdrawal are wide-ranging. PKK’s disarmament means Iran will lose its advantage of having the PKK apparatus, which has been attacking Turkey from Iranian border ever since Ankara threw its support behind the Syrian uprising in late 2011.
For Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) working with Turkey against the Assad regime could mean substantial political victory, may be even Turkey’s support in creating an independent Kurdish state in the area. Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani, in a March 24 statement, said:
“We not only support and welcome this call by Mr. Ocalan, we believe that this is the right course of action and a vindication of our long-standing policy that the Kurdish question is a political issue and that this question cannot be resolved through armed or military means.”
Syria also has 2.5 million Kurds who reside along the northern border with Turkey. Turkey’s approach to stabilize the relationships with its own Kurdish minority might get the support of Syrian Kurds, against the Assad.
A Turkish-Kurdish cooperation against the Assad and Iranian regime could present new opportunities for the KRG, U.S.A, as well as for Turkish regional interests.