Can the US be the mediator in the reconciliation process?

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There are two leaders who have left their marks at the heart of the reconciliation process. First, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided to initiate the process and undertook the concomitant political risks. Second, imprisoned PKK leader Abdulah Öcalan embraced the process and rendered it legitimate in the eyes of a considerable number of Kurds. It was not easy to reach this point. Negotiations with Öcalan extended over a period of nearly a decade in which the military ceased to be Öcalan's interlocutor and the government became the master of the issue. Military powers were behind both parties during the negotiations, but the political power of both leaders was based on avoiding making their respective militaries a direct part of the negotiations. As such, one of the critical matters for the resolution of the Kurdish question for both Erdoğan and Öcalan was to keep the process away from the influence of third parties as far as possible. According to both parties' assessments, if a third party were to be included in the process, this new actor, irrespective of who it was, would like to boost its own role, which would bring up the war once again. After all, it was meaningless to mediate between the two parties that already reconciled, but the function of mediation would increase if a conflict emerged between the two.

 

Therefore, the government preferred to form a committee of "wise men" that would fill the gap in public diplomacy, a third party to arbitrate negotiations. Öcalan also supported this move. The wise men project both helped consolidate peace and indicated that there was no need for official outside mediation. It also enabled the issue to be handled by the people of Turkey, which was very important for Erdoğan and Öcalan, both of whom many times declared that they did not want the involvement of foreign elements in the reconciliation process of the Kurdish question. What lied behind this was a negative opinion that had continued since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and strengthened with Western countries' performance in the Middle East. This idea was that if Westerners attempt to settle any problems in this region, they do not settle it and subject the resolution to their own control.

 

This perspective, which reflected a tendency to introversion, was shaken due to the dynamics in Syria. The U.S.'s quest for secular support in its struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) made the Syrian PKK-affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) a coalition partner. This being the case, the PKK came to the brink of a new assessment that if a new partnership were to be made with the U.S. through the PYD, would it not be reasonable to make this partnership an element of the conflict in Turkey? Then, senior PKK officials in the Qandil Mountains came to suggest that the U.S. be a third party in the process. We have not yet heard Öcalan's clear response to this, but there is no reason to suppose that skepticism directed at the West has ended.

 

The truths in life create an environment that allows the U.S. to function as a kind of mediator. This can come true if the U.S. can establish a realistic balance with Russia. The condition for mediation is that the U.S. be the executive of peace without leaving any room for suspicion. If a connection can be established between Syria's peace and reconstruction and Turkey's reconciliation process, the U.S.'s de facto power might mean that it can be a guarantor of peace in both countries. It must be kept in mind that the objective of peace in Syria, war in Turkey will not bring stability to Syria either. However, the PKK thinks this is possible and can achieve it with U.S. support.

 

Therefore, the U.S. must make a decision over the PKK's position and role and announce it clearly. If the U.S. can convince the PKK that the permanent solution in Syria is only possible with a return to democratic politics in Turkey, it will automatically find a chance to be the third party. It goes without saying that this will make a considerably positive contribution to the perception of the U.S. in Turkey.