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Jan 10 2019

United States needs to convince PKK to drop insurgency in Turkey - columnist

The United States needs to offer a “grand bargain” to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the Syrian Kurdish issue, a Turkish columnist wrote in the Washington Post.

Because Erdoğan will not accept an autonomous Kurdish state on his border over fears it will feed the existing Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) insurgency in Turkey, the United States should try to persuade the PKK to lay down its arms against Turkey, columnist Asli Aydintaşbaş wrote.

The article comes after Erdoğan refused to meet with White House national security advisor John Bolton this week. Bolton had said in Israel during his oversees trip that the Syrian Kurds of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) must be protected during a U.S. troop withdrawal. The comments angered Ankara, which counts the YPG as a severe threat, has launched two military operations against them since 2016, and is currently planning a third.

“Washington would have to somehow convince the PKK, YPG’s parent organization, to declare a cease-fire and withdraw its forces from Turkey — in return for Kurdish autonomy in Syria,” Aydintaşbaş wrote. “Such a grand bargain would appeal to Kurds and Turks if there were a serious U.S. commitment.”

Without the PKK in Turkey, Erdoğan has no “valid” reason to oppose the Syrian Kurds, she wrote. Aydintaşbaş suggests stabilizing the area by establishing Turkish and Kurdish zones of influence.

“Kurds would have autonomy in Kurdish-majority towns such as Kobani, Serikani and Afrin, and Turkey would be the patron saint of remaining Sunni Arab towns,” she wrote.

Instead of persuading Erdoğan to accept the YPG on Turkey’s borders, Bolton can sit down with Kurds and Ankara to find a solution that would eliminate the PKK and bring autonomy to Syrian Kurds, she wrote. She noted that a peace process had been underway during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) reign, until it collapsed in 2015, when the Turkish state and PKK resumed fighting.

“In the good old days, Ankara actively sought peace with the Kurds and intense negotiations continued on and off for eight years,” Aydintaşbaş wrote. “The process fell apart only because the Kurdish gains in Syria led the PKK to walk back its earlier promises and Ankara to freak out about the Kurdish expansion on its borders. To fix it, we need to go back to the map of Syria.”