Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ozel Regrets "Terrorist" Label

PHOTO from Milliyet

Milliyet's Fikret Bila has run an interview with Chief of General Staff Necdet Ozel in which the head of the Turkish Armed Forces says he would not like to call PKK fighters "terrorists" since they, too, are citizens of Turkey.

According to Ozel, many PKK fighters have been deceived, a fact which the top general laments at the same time he gives casualty figures of how many terrorists have been killed in the past six months. Turkish forces in Turkey's near 18-year conflict with the PKK. That number is at 165, according to Ozel, while 112 have surrendered and another 50 have been captured.

Ozel's intimation that PKK fighters should not be labeled as "terrorists" has infuriated many Turks, and nationalist-minded bloggers are clamoring to criticize Ozel as ineffective, and many not simply vis-á-vis the Kurdish question, but in regard to the treatment of army generals who have been arrested in the ongoing Ergenekon investigations.

In the interview, Ozel also dismissed reports that the PKK has adopted a truce, arguing that the opposite is in fact true and that PKK operations have continued throughout the winter. He also said unequivocally that the Turkish Armed Forces were in no way involved in the negotiations between MIT and the PKK that seem to have ended at the end of 2009 or beginning of 2010. Ozel further states that he is against recognizing Kurdish as an official language or integrating it into school education and using it to administer public services.

The general goes on to state that the United States has provided assistance from northern Iraq, though the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has done little to assist with the situation. Iraqi officials have told Ankara that there is little they can do (see an account of TRT's interview, in Turkish, with Iraq Vice President Tariq Hashimi on Oct. 30). Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani and KRG president Massoud Barzani, much to the likely frustration of Turkish officials, continue to dialogue with the BDP, urging the party, albeit without much visible success, toward peace.

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