Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Saturday, November 21, 1998 Published at 13:52 GMT

World: Europe

PKK seeks political solution

Abdullah Ocalan is keen to negotiate with the Turkish Government

By Regional Analyst Pam O'Toole

Abdullah Ocalan, leader of Turkey's Kurdish separatist group the PKK, begins his second week in Italy under decidedly improved conditions to those he faced when he arrived in Rome a week ago.

The Italian courts have agreed to release him from detention. And his chances of being able to stay in Italy, rather than face extradition to Turkey, look increasingly good.

Call for peace

[ image: The PKK has led a violent campaign in Turkey for 14 years]
The PKK has led a violent campaign in Turkey for 14 years
But perhaps most positive of all for the PKK, some European countries are suggesting the situation should be used to try to find a political solution to the 14-year conflict between the PKK and the Turkish Government.

Earlier this week, Germany's Foreign Minister suggested that Mr Ocalan's arrest could be the catalyst to bring peace and reconciliation.

It is a position that the PKK would like to capitalise on.

The PKK has called for a political solution to the Kurdish question before.

In September, amid reports that it was severely weakened militarily, it called a unilateral ceasefire in an attempt to tempt Turkey to the negotiating table.

Turkey refuses to talk

Ankara, as usual, rejected such overtures, maintaining that it does not negotiate with terrorists.

Mizgin Sen, European spokesperson for the PKK's political wing, the ERNK, said: "I believe Ocalan's determined to stay in Europe, and, taking all the risks, he is determined to start up a political process and believes the European Union can play a very important role in that.

"So now, there is a very clear statement from the PKK that they are prepared, that they favour a political solution, a negotiated settlement. And they are asking Europe to assist."

Even Mr Ocalan's most ardent supporters do not really expect Ankara to sit down at the negotiating table at this moment with the man it holds responsible for the death of 30,000 people.

PKK wants dialogue

However, the ERNK says it could be possible to start political talks at a much lower level at first and gradually work up to a higher level.

But it says the PKK must be taken into consideration, pointing to Turkey's own heavy-handed treatment of its Kurdish minority.

However, Turkish MP Bulent Akarcali rejected this argument.

"This is not an excuse to consider a real terrorist - a man who killed - to consider him as an interlocutor," he said.

"Surely the solution should be democratic. But this solution cannot start either with Ocalan or the PKK. If it will cost Turkey the membership of the European Union, we do not want this membership."

European relations sour

The current standoff has certainly harmed relations between Europe and Turkey. And Ankara seems no closer to starting a political dialogue with the PKK.

But Turkey must be aware that if Mr Ocalan is allowed to stay in Italy either as a refugee or on humanitarian grounds - and this seems likely - he may well try to develop his organisation's political influence in Europe.

That would be bad news for Turkey, and its relationship with the European Union.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

21 Nov 98 | Europe
Italy risking Turkey's wrath

21 Nov 98 | Europe
A people divided by borders

20 Nov 98 | Monitoring
Prime minister's 'eternal enmity' speech

18 Nov 98 | Europe
Ocalan extradition row deepens

Internet Links

Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Centre for Kurdish Studies

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift