Turkey’s approach to dealing with its Kurdish minority—the Kurdish question—at home and in the region is once again at a critical juncture. From the prospects for a new constitution to Ankara’s Syria dilemma, virtually all the pressing issues facing Turkey have a Kurdish dimension. After the failure of the “Oslo process,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has initiated another round of negotiations, this time called the “Imralı process” and directly involving the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. The process has been challenging, but extremely cautious expectations and hopes are growing that the rejuvenated process will not succumb to the fate of the previous efforts at solving the Kurdish problem in Turkey.
Given past failures at dialogue and at finding a mutually-acceptable, peaceful, and democratic solution to the problem, how might the “Imralı process” prove different? What do the Kurds of Turkey want? Is the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ready to meet Kurdish demands? What is Erdoğan’s objective? What are the regional implications? At a time when Syria is in turmoil and Iraqi is facing increasing domestic instability, is a major breakthrough possible?
On March 20, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings (CUSE) hosted a discussion to explore these and other important questions related to Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Featured speakers included Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Ömer Taşpınar, author and journalist Aliza Marcus, and Gönül Tol of the Middle East Institute. Brookings TUSIAD Senior Fellow Kemal Kirişci provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. The event is part of the TUSIAD U.S.-Turkey Forum at Brookings.
I think some people are overreacting — the people who say, oh this is the end of the U.S.-China relationship as we know it. That’s not necessarily true. They could be lenient to Trump and treat Taiwan differently. We need to know a lot more and we shouldn’t pre-judge the situation but we shouldn’t trivialize it either.
I think the scratches on the oracle bone suggest that they may be more lenient with Trump than with Tsai Ing-wen. We have already seen examples of ways that Beijing is pressuring the Tsai administration because it has not complied with Beijing’s demands about the 1992 consensus.