Turkish commentators in general remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The leak of the records of the talks between the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and a delegation from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) incensed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who scolded the daily Milliyet for having publicized the records. However, there is not a widespread perception among the commentators in the media that the leak has actually damaged the peace process. While critics of the government hold that Erdoğan’s reaction once again shows his determination to silence the media, commentators who support the government make the case that the issue cannot be treated as a matter of press freedom, suggesting that the opponents of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are doing their utmost to sabotage the peace process.
The preliminary peace talks that are being conducted between Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, and the representatives of the Turkish state have occasioned many comments about the nature of Turkish nationalism. It is widely acknowledged that the possible solution of the longstanding conflict with the Kurds will ultimately alter the way Turkey is defined as a nation. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has in unequivocal terms distanced himself from nationalism, saying that his government finds Turkish and Kurdish nationalism equally repugnant. Some commentators have objected, saying that Turkish nationalist sensitivities must be taken into account, while others question the conventional assumption that Turkish nationalism really is ingrained and impossible to overcome.
The emerging alliance of interests between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has led several Turkish commentators to express the worry that the solution of the Kurdish problem – unexpectedly – might go hand in hand with the imposition of an authoritarian system. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that his party is prepared to act together with the BDP in order to put a new constitution (that would introduce a presidential system and simultaneously expand Kurdish rights) to a referendum, while the BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş has stated that the AKP is the party that is closest to the BDP. Meanwhile, the focus of the debate over the Kurdish issue has started to shift to the question of the Turkish identity. Mümtaz’er Türköne, a leading Turkish nationalist intellectual, has stirred a major debate, including drawing a wave of reactions in social media, after a series of columns in which he has declared that Turkish nationalism as fulfilled its historic mission and has to be abandoned.
The reactions to the resumed talks between the Turkish government and Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are generally cautious among the Turkish commentators. What is especially notable is that several of those Turkish commentators who have earned a name as experts on the Kurdish issue are particularly circumspect, expressing severe doubts about the prospects of the resumed peace process; notably, they question the motives of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and point out that the Turkish government isn’t offering any comprehensive solution to the Kurdish question, only talking about disarming the PKK. Although that secures the consent of the Turkish majority to having talks with Öcalan, an agreement that disregards the Kurds’ demands will not be viable, they warn.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.