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AKP gov’t may be having talks with jailed PKK leader: opposition chair

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Nationalist İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener has said she heard rumors of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government starting new talks with jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, local media reported on Tuesday.

“I don’t know about any [new] settlement process. … [But] I’ve heard rumors that [Öcalan] and government [figures] are having talks,” Akşener told journalist İlker Karagöz during a Tuesday program on FOX TV.

The settlement process, which refers to talks between the AKP government and the leadership of the 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.

Referring to far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, an ally of Turkish president and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Akşener added, “A letter may [again] fall into the hands of Mr. Bahçeli … just like it did in the second round of the İstanbul elections. [And] he would have a hard time deciding how to handle it.”

Osman Öcalan, brother of Abdullah Öcalan, appeared on public broadcaster TRT’s Kurdish TV station, TRT Kurdi, seeking support for the ruling AKP ahead of a critical vote in İstanbul in June 2019.

TRT Kurdi broadcast an interview with Osman Öcalan, who commented on a letter from Abdullah Öcalan calling on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose supporters would play a crucial role in determining the winner, to remain impartial in a repeat mayoral election in İstanbul.

Despite the PKK leader’s call, the HDP, the country’s second-largest opposition party, in 2019 sat out the mayoral races in big cities as part of its political strategy in Turkey’s west and urged its supporters to cast strategic votes for the Nation Alliance, consisting of several opposition parties including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Partly due to the support of Kurdish voters, the CHP was able to defeat the governing AKP in a number of major cities, including Ankara and İstanbul, during the 2019 local elections.

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.

He was subsequently sentenced to death; however, the sentence was commuted to aggravated life as Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its bid to become a member of the European Union.

Öcalan has been jailed on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999.

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