The message was clear. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will not accept any peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue.
After two days of terrorism-laden discourse, the 10th Silk Road 2009 General/Admiral Seminar concluded in Istanbul. Some 119 military representatives from the EU, NATO and UN member countries participated in the two-day long seminar. The theme was cooperation with NATO and partners in the 60th year.
Addressing the seminar, Turkish Chief of General Staff General İlker Başbuğ said it is a mistake to believe that terrorism can be eliminated solely through social and cultural measures while terrorists still hold their weapons.
Reiterating that Turkey has been countering the terrorist organisation PKK for 25 years, General Başbuğ said the target in Turkey’s combat against terrorism is to attain success against terrorists and their supporters. It is a long-term fight and the problem can only be solved when terrorists lay down arms, Başbuğ added.
It seemed to be a stark warning to Turkish President Abdullah Gül who recently declared the Kurdish question to be the ‘country’s most pressing problem’ and said Turkey has ‘a historical opportunity to resolve it through discussions.’ Mr. Gül’s comments have followed a renewed debate in the Turkish press, academia and politics on how to end the PKK-led Kurdish insurgency.
However, Başbuğ, defining terrorism as the ‘most serious [asymmetrical] threat against the international community and the security of the alliance,’ said that ‘it is a mistake to believe that terrorism can be eradicated only by taking economic and socio-cultural measures when terrorist organisations maintain their armed forces.’
Allied countries need to unite and develop a common front in order to succeed in the fight against terrorism, he said, adding that the TSK is determined to wipe out the PKK.
‘Our aim while fighting [PKK] terrorism is to end all hopes of the terrorists and their supporters,’ said Başbuğ. ‘Terrorism not only targets at lives of innocent people but also threatens common humanitarian values such as democracy, freedom and human rights.’
Appealing to NATO partners and reaffirming Turkey’s commitment to the alliance he said, ‘Whatever the source or the reason countries need to cooperate to tackle terrorism. It does not prove enough if any one country attempts to root out terrorism by itself,’ he said, hailing joint NATO programmes and adding that they helped improve security and strengthen NATO’s borders. Başbuğ too was sure to mention that Turkey has not only provided assistance to NATO in operations but has provided vital leadership. A subtle hint no doubt to the West that they will continue to provide assistance and leadership, but the allies had better continue supporting the Turkish army’s fight against the PKK on its own terms.
Başbuğ said that he believed NATO member countries should eliminate the differences in their positions and policies and assume a common stance against terrorism.
Recently however, Gül, the Kurds and the PKK are signalling that they are ready for a compromise. The current PKK leader, Murad Karayilan, for instance, in a long set of interviews last month said that the PKK was offering to drop its aim of an independent state in return for a negotiated settlement to end its war with Turkey in exchange for a process that begins with a cessation of hostilities and discussions between Ankara and Turkish Kurdish political representatives.
Army wants PKK ’totally eradicated’, Hurriyet Daily News.com, 24 June 2009.
Barkey, Henri. A Chance for Turkish-Kurdish Peace, Wall Street Journal, 22 June 2009.
Silk Road 2009 Ended, turkiyeinternette.com, 23 June 2009