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Erdoğan “undermined” peace with Kurds: PKK leader | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cemil Bayik, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s second-in-command. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Cemil Bayik, the Kurdistan Workers' Party's second-in-command. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Cemil Bayik, second-in-command of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Mount Qandil (Iraqi Kurdistan), Asharq Al-Awsat—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is responsible for “terminating” peace process between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a senior party official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from his base in Mount Qandil in northern Iraq, Cemil Bayik, the PKK’s second-in-command, accused Erdoğan of undermining the peace initiative that Abdullah Öcalan, the party’s leader, launched in 2013 between Ankara and the Kurdish separatist movement.

“Öcalan is the one who worked to push the peace process forward but [Turkey] opposed him,” Bayik said.

The PKK official threatened the party will return to armed insurgency unless Ankara orders the release of Öcalan who has been imprisoned on Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999.

“The PKK will not lay down arms until after the release of Öcalan,” he said.

The PKK and Ankara have been locked in conflict for more than three decades, after the movement began an armed struggle for greater political and cultural autonomy for Turkey’s ethnic Kurds.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Bayik’s remarks stand in stark contrast to a recent statement by Öcalan in which he called on PKK members to take an “historic” decision and end a decades-long insurgency against Turkey.

Öcalan’s call came following a series of meetings he held with members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in February.

But Bayik said there have been no meetings between Öcalan and the HDP since April.

“Turkey has changed and is no longer what it used to be. Now the meetings [with the HDP] should be held on the basis of securing the release of Öcalan,” he said. “If [Ankara] thinks it still can deal with Öcalan in the same way it did in the past, we will not accept that.”

The HDP’s win of 13 per cent of the overall vote in June 7 general elections in Turkey is thought to secure greater rights and freedoms for the country’s ethnic Kurds.

“Öcalan must be released because of the major efforts he made for democracy in Turkey,” Bayik said, adding, “Öcalan had a major role in the HDP’s success in the Turkish elections and in pushing its political project forward.”

When asked about the future of the peace process, Bayik said: “Without the release of Öcalan the peace process will not witness any progress.”