04 September 2006
Parliament's vote set to follow debates on the Lebanon troop deployment motion, set to start tomorrow at 3:00 p.m., will be round two for the March 1, 2003 motion on sending troops to Iraq. The Bush administration, which got a negative response to the 2003 motion, must be expecting a positive response this time around.
Before it came to power, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party promised the U.S., behind closed doors, to support its Iraq operation. But this promise turned out to be empty, as around 100 deputies from the AK Party voted against the motion that would have allowed the U.S. to open a front on Turkish soil for its Iraq invasion. The rejection of the motion strained Turkish-U.S. relations.
The motion regarding Turkey's contribution to the international peacekeeping force to be deployed in Lebanon, following Israeli attacks in July and last month's cease-fire, will be voted on tomorrow. This vote will be a critical turning point for Turkish-U.S. relations.
This vote, in fact, seems to be significant for relations between the AK Party and Bush administration, rather than for U.S.-Turkish relations. Speculations in the backrooms indicate that if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants a successful visit to the U.S. in October, the motion should be passed. The speculations also indicate that Erdogan's eagerness to send Turkish troops to Lebanon since the very beginning of the debates is an attempt to mend the damaged relations with the U.S. following the 2003 resolution.
While these debates are going on behind closed doors, Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Zeki Sezer was the first figure to speak openly on the issue. "The AK Party took power having promised to serve the interests of global forces," said Sezer. "It considers the support of these forces essential for its staying in power. In this regard, the AK Party wants to send troops to Lebanon to get foreign support so it can stay in power."
The second round of the March 2003 motion will take place tomorrow. If the motion on Lebanon is passed, Turkey will open its bases and ports to foreign armed forces, although it didn't do that three years ago. The most important part of the motion seems to be this. Will the AK Party government be able to block the use of these bases and ports for other countries (maybe Iran and Syria) as well in the future?
Before the arrival of Turkish troops, AK Party Sakarya Deputy Suleyman Gunduz traveled to Lebanon. Going there as a member of the "Ground Doctors group" following the declaration of the cease-fire, Gunduz tried to assess its problems regarding health and made promises to send medicine and other medical supplies. Following his arrival in Turkey, Gunduz started to meet with the Health Ministry and civil groups, trying to obtain these supplies.
Gunduz said that around 1 million internally displaced people are in public buildings and face grave health problems. He also said that epidemics may break out in the country and there are very serious problems in importing medicines and medical supplies. Gunduz pointed to the problems in finding a number of medicines and particularly antibiotics.
In northern Beirut, Gunduz came across Turkish-speaking Armenians. After having a close dialogue with these Armenians, most of whom migrated there from Turkey, Gunduz argued that the Armenians won't oppose Turkish troops' taking part in the international peacekeeping force.
"The area that I stayed in was predominantly populated by Armenians," said Gunduz. "None of them objected to us. Around 90 percent of the Armenians that I spoke to were immigrants from Turkey. The area is also one where the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA - an Armenian terrorist group that killed a number of Turkish diplomats) originated from. While I was there, the issue of Turkey's sending troops to Lebanon wasn't certain yet. But I think the Armenians there won't oppose the Turkish troops."
News agencies reported last week that a group of Armenians demonstrated against Turkish troops in Beirut, though not very many.
However, Gunduz is making plans to improve the dialogue he established with Lebanese Armenians in the coming years. Arguing that there are thousands of people in Turkey who came from Armenia to work, Gunduz said that he will make a project regarding diaspora Armenians if he is able to stay in politics following the next elections. "I will propose developing friendship between Turkey and diaspora Armenians and not passing on a historical mistake to the generations to come," said Gunduz. "I will also suggest that the problem be resolved within the citizenship framework." Under Gunduz's proposal, diaspora Armenians who have migrated from Turkey will be given the chance to become Turkish citizens.
Turkish friend of PKK envoy
One of the figures who views with suspicion the new model of fighting terrorism through the U.S and Turkey's appointing Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) envoys is CHP deputy head and former diplomat Onur Oymen.
Oymen argues that the aim of appointing envoys is a political solution. "The U.S. doesn't want the elimination of PKK through the full use of force," said Oymen. "It isn't moving militarily against the PKK and doesn't want Turkey to do that. If there had been a military fight, a liaison officer would be appointed. But an envoy seeks a political solution. It doesn't matter is the envoy is a military man. If the military man appointed is retired, his task is political."
Former Gen. Joseph Ralston, the U.S.-appointed PKK envoy, is a figure Oymen knows very well. "Ralston is my friend," Oymen said. "While I was serving as the permanent representative to NATO (1997-2002), he was the Supreme Allied commander Europe. He's a very good soldier. He used to say that he has warm feeling for Turkey. But this is one thing, and being an envoy is another."
Oymen argued that it's not important that the U.S. administration announced Ralston won't meet with the terrorist group. He said that in diplomacy this is called indirect or proxy negotiation. According to Oymen, the process will unfold as follows: "Ralston won't travel to Mt. Kandil in northern Iraq to meet with PKK leader Murat Karayilan. Ralston will meet with the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government will talk to [Kurdish region leader Massoud] Barzani, and Barzani will communicate the demands to the PKK. This is called proxy negotiation. The PKK will be told to lay down its arms and a threatening message will be sent. The PKK, meanwhile, will draw up a list of demands, including a general amnesty and political participation. The U.S. will put pressure on Turkey to accept the PKK's demands."
Oymen argued that if Turkey resists the PKK demands, the U.S. will say in the end that they did their best but Turkey didn't help at all. "So the U.S. will protect itself from blame," Oymen said.
As for the other option, the deputy said, "If Turkey accepts these demands, we can't know what the consequences will be."
As an example of the model of political efforts against terrorism, Oymen referred to the U.S. appointment of former Senator George Mitchell as an envoy for the negotiations between the IRA and the British government.
Oymen pointed to how the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) claimed responsibility for the latest terrorist attacks in southern Turkish tourist resorts, arguing that reaching an agreement with the PKK won't end terrorism. "They will say that a splinter group established the TAK, ending the PKK's responsibility for terrorist attacks," Oymen argued. "On the one hand, Turkey will make concessions to the PKK to end terrorism, and on the other, terrorism will continue under different names."
In an interview with daily Sabah, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was very angered by a question on an alleged secret plan for the elimination of PKK forces, and said that asking such a question amounted to treason.
Erdogan's attitude indicated that the government will stay silent about the model-in-preparation of fighting terrorism through envoys. But some key words will signal the stage that the new model is here. The most important key word, in this regard, is cease-fire.
If the terrorist PKK declares a cease-fire, this will mean that the first stage in the talks through envoys was successfully completed. The PKK cease-fire will likely be for a limited time, with set dates.
If the terrorist group declares a cease-fire for an indefinite period, that means the process is about to be concluded. We should assume that the AK Party won't remain silent anymore in this case.
If the government passes a secret or open amnesty law in the coming months, that means the talks are at a critical stage, which can be considered the most difficult stage for the government.
The amnesty model suggested back in 1993 by then President Turgut Ozal to Ahmet Turk, now Democratic Society Party (DTP) head, was very comprehensive. According to Turk, Ozal suggested that the terrorist group members submit a petition including the crimes they committed in a sealed envelope and these petitions would be destroyed if they didn't commit any more crimes in the next five years.
Right now the AK Party government sees an amnesty as impossible. Under the "secret plan" Sabah published, the AK Party doesn't consider an amnesty possible for the time being but will allow the administrative ranks of the terrorist group to silently return to Turkey. These administrators will then go to northern countries.
We'll see whether the key words will work this time.
04 September 2006