GRM 2010 GRM 2011

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The surprising revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, or the so-called “Arab Spring”, have been one of the most significant issues of the world political agenda for the last two years. Wide-spread incidents in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria caused many other regional countries to reconsider their policies in frame of this new and highly “threatening” atmosphere. Would the Arab Spring in general be successful? What would be the possible outcomes of it? How would the relations of those newly established governments be with the outside world? Would some of the regional states face the danger of being divided? Among those countries, which try to estimate the possible answers of these questions, Turkey comes forward with its quite vulnerable Kurdish problem, waiting to be solved for almost thirty years.
The ruling JDP [Justice and Development Party] pictures Turkey not only as a regional, but also as a global leader. It plans to make Turkey rank among world’s top ten economies with 25 thousand dollars per capita income and 500 billion dollars worth export in 2023. However, the continuing Kurdish problem and the existing military clash with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] are the most important challenges before the JDP’s dream to enlarge the atmosphere of confidence and stability inside and outside of its borders through a better democracy and a stronger economy. Up until today, Turkey has spent 400 billion dollars in its fight against terrorism. Moreover, the country’s future national unity and territorial integrity are still a matter of discussion.
As a matter of fact, one can easily claim that Turkey’s chronic Kurdish problem is the “Achilles’ heel” of the ruling JDP, especially because the issue is highly “regionalized” after the traumatic effects of the Arab Spring namely in Syria. Continuing clashes in Syria and the unclear position of the Syrian Kurds have made it almost impossible for Ankara to treat the Kurdish issue as its own. As a result of the recent developments in the last two years, the fate of Turkey’s Kurdish problem has become much more united with the fate of the same problem in Syria, or in Iraq and Iran. Both the Kurds and the rulers of the countries where they live are aware of the fact that the Arab Spring’s possible side effects might finally cause changing of the maps in the Middle East. Hence a new bargaining process gets started with the fear of losing control.
As this paper will point out, the recent peace negotiations between the Turkish government and the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan is a clear example of that. Turkey has already experienced its limits regarding the Syrian Kurds, namely the PYD [Democratic Union Party], in their struggle with Asad regime. The PYD practices almost an autonomous administration in Syria and does not take a clear anti-Asad position as it has various other rivals. Turkey’s strong economic ties and the honeymoon-like relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq are not helpful enough for Ankara to establish the necessary control in its south. Due to the PYD’s close relations with the PKK, Turkey’s threat perception increases. Together with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the KRG, Turkey has even been accused of supporting some jihadist groups like the Nusra Front in order to minimize the PYD’s influence in Syria. The relations with Iran, another neighbor with a Kurdish population, are already tense due to Ankara’s strategic ties with NATO. Recent installations of NATO radar systems and Patriot missiles have already alarmed Iran to use the Kurdish card if necessary.
This paper will present that all these developments, which have been sped up by the Arab Spring, actually necessitate Turkey to solve its Kurdish problem as soon as possible. Throughout an in depth analysis, the paper will show that if Turkey fails to solve its Kurdish problem, the highly regionalized character of this problem might turn the issue into a gangrene and cause more clashes that will exceed Turkey’s borders. That is why, not only Ankara, but also many other capitals, including those in the Gulf, contemplate on Turkey’s current negotiation process, which will determine the route of the Kurdish problem and thus the possible new map of the Middle East.