Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Rise and Fall of the AK Party's Kurdish Peace Initiatives

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Rise and Fall of the AK Party's Kurdish Peace Initiatives

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT This study analyzes the peace and reconciliation initiatives of the AK Party governments (2002 until 2017) to address the Kurdish Question, with a special focus on the Reconciliation Process. Steps taken throughout the Reconciliation Process and the strengths and weaknesses of these steps are discussed. It is argued that the main challenges and shortcomings were the shifting political priorities of the Kurdish political actors, the changing balance of power within Turkish domestic politics, new opportunities presented to the Kurdish Movement by the Syrian civil war and the uncertainties Turkey faced due to this war. The main conclusion of the paper is that the regional turmoil, especially the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Iraq, is the major determinant that blocked the Reconciliation Process.

Introduction

The Kurdish Question has been one of the top priority items in domestic politics for the AK Party government. Some serious efforts were made and two major initiatives were conducted by successive AK Party governments to address the Kurdish Question. The most serious effort was the Reconciliation Process (2013-2015). However earlier efforts paved the way for the Reconciliation Process. Erdogan's Diyarbakir speech in 2005 signaled a change of opinion on the issue. While, along with the Kurdish Opening (2009), some legal amendments and democratization efforts were made to address the problem. The Reconciliation Process (cozum Sureci) was only possible with the backdrop of these earlier efforts. This study analyzes the peace and reconciliation initiatives of the AK Party governments (2002 until 2017) to address the Kurdish Question. More specific emphasis is on the Reconciliation Process or as it is known in Turkish the "cozum Sureci." Steps taken throughout the Reconciliation Process and the strengths and weaknesses of these steps are discussed within the general logic of peace processes.

Peace Process as a Notion

A peace process is defined as the active attempt for the prevention and management of conflict between and within states. (1) The minimum requirements of a peace process involve the participation of the key protagonists in the process, cessation of violence, practicing political process and taking political steps that would prevent the reescalation of violence. (2) According to John Darby and Roger Mac Ginty, five essential criteria are required for a successful peace accord: 1) The conflicting parties are willing to negotiate in good faith, 2) Key actors are included in the process, 3) The negotiations address the central issues in the dispute, 4) Force is not used to achieve objectives, 5) The negotiators are committed to a sustained process. (3)

A peace process without the above-stated conditions has a very limited chance to be successful. A genuine peace process is different from ending an armed conflict or direct violence. Peace process is a comprehensive procedure that aims to focus on the social, economic, psychological and security-related aspects of the conflict. As Johan Galtung expresses, (4) ending the direct violence cannot be considered the ultimate purpose of the peace process by any means. It can take a long while to overcome and deal with all the aspects of the conflict and such a comprehensive result can never be obtained in most conflicts. However as long as the violence factor continues, convenient grounds to enable progress in other realms cannot be formed. Reaching a result that introduces social justice and consonance while meeting the expectations of all the conflicting parties as a result of negotiations might be the ideal solution. However, many negotiated peace agreements come to an end before achieving this ideal situation.

The Reconciliation Process analyzed in this study refers to all the constructive efforts to reach a solution that were displayed after the cease-fire with the aim of coming up with a political solution in the long-running Kurdish Question. …

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