Two officials from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have made contradictory statements regarding claims that the government is engaging in talks with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Friday.
The PKK has been leading a violent insurgency in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast for nearly four decades. Its leader Öcalan was captured by Turkish security forces in Nairobi in 1999 and has been jailed on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara ever since.
Commenting on recent claims that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government sent a delegation to İmralı to meet with Öcalan, justice minister and the AKP’s parliamentary candidate for Şanlıurfa Bekir Bozdağ said it was “a lie,” while Galip Ensarioğlu, the party’s candidate for Diyarbakır, argued that the government was in “constant contact” with the jailed PKK leader.
Journalist Amed Dicle was the first to make the claim on April 10, followed by jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who cited an interview with Dicle in which the journalist claimed that a meeting was held between Öcalan and an AKP delegation and that the government failed to obtain the support they wanted from the PKK leader for the May 14 elections.
Demirtaş also said in an article he published on his website through his lawyers on May 1 that Erdoğan also had “luxurious quarters” made for Öcalan so as to gain his support before the 2014 presidential election, adding that it increased their suspicion that Erdoğan hadn’t been sincere about the settlement process but was only trying to impress them for political gain.
The settlement process, which refers to talks between the AKP government and the leadership of the outlawed PKK to resolve the Kurdish issue, began in 2012 and ended after two police officers were executed in southeastern Şanlıurfa province in June 2015.
The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.
Earlier this week, nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party Leader Meral Akşener also claimed that the government recently sent a person from the judiciary to İmralı Island to meet with Öcalan.
“The state is constantly in contact with Öcalan. If Öcalan wants to contribute to the solution [to the Kurdish issue] … and the state believes in it, such negotiations will continue. However, as of today, it is the HDP and Qandil [PKK] itself that have eliminated the conditions for this,” the AKP’s Ensarioğlu told the Medyascope news website regarding the claims.
However, Minister Bozdağ refuted them during a live broadcast on CNN Türk on Friday, saying those who made the claims are “lying” and that the government only sent “technical teams” to İmralı to solve technical problems that occurred there, which have nothing to do with Öcalan.
Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, in addition to their ultranationalist election partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), accuse the HDP of links to the outlawed PKK and also accuse other opposition parties of collaboration with it from time to time.