Peace to be achieved in 2 years at most, Deputy PM Atalay says

Peace to be achieved in 2 years at most, Deputy PM Atalay says

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Beshir Atalay has said the Kurdish conflict will be solved in two years at most if parties involved in the process aimed at ending the conflict are really sincere Today`s Zaman reported.

"It is not quite possible to give an exact date as to when such processes will be concluded, but a two-year period is more than enough for the peace process if the involved parties are sincere and honest. We don't need so much time as we have had so much experience regarding the issue," Atalay said in an interview published by the Bugun daily on Monday.

Turkish state authorities have been holding peace talks with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan since last October, with the aim of achieving a timetable for the disarmament of PKK terrorists. Three Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies also traveled to İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara on Feb. 23 to meet with the PKK leader as part of the talks.

"Hopes and expectations are high in the [peace] process. We have found the same support and hope in Diyarbakır [a Kurdish-populated southeastern province] and in İzmir [a western Turkish province]," the deputy prime minister said, reiterating the government's determination to carry on the peace efforts.

Asked whether the government has been informed of a rumored decision by the PKK to declare a cease-fire before March 21, the day of the Nevruz spring festival, Atalay said: "These reports had widespread media coverage. But we are avoiding making predictions about the future of the process as we are at the very beginning. I prefer to be cautious, but hopeful."

Independent Mardin deputy Ahmet Turk recently said he expects commanders of the PKK to declare a cease-fire against Turkish security forces before Nevruz, which heralds the arrival of spring and is commonly observed by Kurds in Turkey.

Atalay also recalled the Habur incident, in which an effort likewise aimed at solving the country's terrorism problem was interrupted due to provocations.

On Oct. 19, 2009 the PKK turned over a group of its members to Turkish authorities at the Habur border gate, at the time seen as a groundbreaking move that might have led to the disarmament of the terrorists. However, PKK supporters turned the militants' return into a major show of power, with massive demonstrations in the Southeast, offending nationalist sensibilities in Turkey and also the families of soldiers killed in clashes with the PKK.

"We have taken the necessary lessons from the past. We are taking steps more cautiously, remembering what happened in the past. We are speaking less and working more on strategies. We avoid speaking on details as much as possible," the deputy prime minister further stated.

A cloud was cast over the recent peace talks when minutes from the meeting between Ocalan and the three Kurdish deputies were published by the Milliyet daily two weeks ago.

BDP co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtash acknowledged on Saturday that the minutes were leaked over his party, adding that he will announce the results of an investigation into the incident on Tuesday.

The leak has been widely interpreted as an apparent move to sabotage the positive atmosphere around the peace talks.

Atalay described the leak as an act of "irresponsibility," saying the government will not let it affect the process negatively.

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