Pre-9 October period and the 1 September 1998 ceasefire - V
According to the Kurdish People’s Leader, the efforts for ceasefire and the Turkish General Staff clearing the way for dialogue was a trick but he still didn’t want to be side breaking the ceasefire.
In the last days of August 1998, Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan declared a ceasefire to go into effect on 1 September. Öcalan would notice early that this ceasefire was actually a trick while the button was pushed for the International Conspiracy.
A new coalition was formed on 30 June 1998 under the leadership of Mesut Yılmaz, leader of Turgut Özal’s party ANAP. The first act of the new government was to enter into a dialogue with Öcalan. To this end, intermediaries become involved instantly. Following the message traffic between Ankara-Brussels and Abdullah Öcalan who was in Syrian capital Damascus at the time, a program on MED TV was arranged in the first week of July, in which the two sides would speak on the phone. However, the phone call expected from Turkish state officials didn’t come. Instead, a fax with the name of a front agency was sent to the live broadcast studio of MED TV. The fax read: “In order for this problem to be resolved, Öcalan should have gotten out of where he is”. The Kurdish leader gave the following response to the fax which was read on MED TV: “Should Ankara manifest enough will in respect of a solution, we would convince this side. The issue of where we are now shouldn’t be made a diplomatic problem and this grounds shouldn’t be subjected to pressure.”
It later came out that the fax in question had been sent by Turkish General Staff. The message was actually a Messenger of what would happen later on. After all, Turkish General Staff stepped in directly and demanded a ceasefire in August 1998. The civil society organisations and intellectuals in Turkey as well as the European Parliament were also issuing a call, stating that they expected the PKK to take such a step which would pave the way for a solution.
29 AUGUST 1998 EVENING
A message sent from Ankara on 21 August 1998 read “The embargo on the press has been lifted” and announced giving a green light to the participation of the Turkish media in the press conference to be held for ceasefire. Shortly after, on 29 August 1998 evening, journalist Günay Aslan moderated a program on MED TV in which many journalists from Kurdish, Turkish and international media attended. Abdullah Öcalan spoke for the program on the phone and made the awaited statement. Striking parts of that statement included: “Dear representatives of media organs! First of all, I respectfully welcome you encouraging us on the occasion of a sacred call for peace via MED TV, and express my sincere thanks.
We have been encouraged by the news we have received that favorable outcomes could emerge in the event that convenient conditions for a political solution are prepared, as has been expected from us by many circles and mainly the European Parliament, and a similar initiative is taken by the PKK, a call made by the sensible circles in Turkey.
Let me express a first thing; war is madness unless it originates from a major conflict or problem. Especially, meaningless terror and violence are a phenomenon that should never occupy a place in human relations. The most challenging issue is the fact that we are the victims of a violence that dates back to centuries ago and could go so far as a worst genocide.
I have to tell that the initiation of such a step by our side can make us only happy. After consultation with our organization, I have reached the conclusion that the re- commencement of the initiative that we tried to launch in April 1993 during the term of Mr. Özal, which was very limited but still promised hope, is appropriate in consideration of the aggravating external conditions and more importantly the internal conditions in Turkey.
As an answer to the worldwide longing for peace on 1 September, to the EP decision and to the rising powerful public opinion in Turkey’s environment, we endorse initiating a ceasefire starting from 1 September which I will not call unilateral but could still be understood as such, which will be sine die as its duration depends on not us but on the circles that need to answer us -not a condition we are laying down - so as to get favorable political conditions for the solution of the existing problems and to take the first step expected of us for the solution of these problems, including the Kurdish question.
All internal and external conditions show that a position more favorable than 1993 is currently in question. We want to be sensitive on this. I believe this also fits the expectation of the entire internal and external public opinion.
To put it differently, -our ceasefire is, if it makes any practical sense, could be two weeks or a month, it is up to us- for the sake of electoral period and amnesty issue as well, for an evaluation of the new command echelon in the Turkish army, more importantly for overcoming this aggravating crisis in a more democratic way, for the cessation of this historically hidden-covered war that really constrains us, we agree to such a ceasefire because we realize that the war is no good to Turkey, further it does too much harm to Turkey.
All the internal and external circumstances demonstrate that a more favorable situation than that of 1993 has emerged. We want to be sensitive to that. I suppose that this covers the expectations of internal and external public. İf they do not carry out military operations against us, if the guerilla is not exterminated through such operations, we have a command over our guerilla which means the guerilla will not attack. Let me repeat it: no violent action will be carried out by us for more moderation and so that the atmosphere would become more meaningful for a political struggle. I believe that no one among us would be tempted to invoke any provocation. I do not think that any provocation similar to 1993 would repeat once again. We have a full command over our forces in that matter.
We want to make it clear to the general public that this should not be seen as a temporary tactical sort of thing and we do not aim at something like that. Once guarantees have been given, we can consider this as a sincere and thorough attitude. As long as favorable conditions are provided in this regard, and credibility is maintained, it will be seen that we are the most powerful ally for Turkey's democracy, as I always say. We do not accept anything else. We are also a force of enlightenment and democracy for the Kurdish people, not separatism as they say. I want to emphasize that it is important to evaluate this correctly. Violent methods should not really be overrated. If they insist to act otherwise, our possibilities for developing violence are greater than ever. As a matter of fact, violence has been applied to the full extent, yet there is no result. These methods should not be given too much credit.
It is observed that the problems in the world are mostly intended to be resolved without violence. The Chechnya problem in Russia, the Colombian problem, the Irish problem, and even Palestinian problem tend to be towards a solution on this basis. Turkey’s keeping up with this trend of our era is really the only way to peace in Turkey. If we are given a chance in the presence of our public, especially in the presence of all those who want to get rid of these problems as soon as possible; I would say: Give us a chance and let's show our consistency! Let us show how constructive and consistent builder of peoples' democracy we are! This will definitely be judged by the steps taken in the right direction, and we will show it. I want to conclude my brief explanation on this basis. If you, dear members of the press, have any question, I would be honored to answer them. Thank you once again for listening to us and greetings. "
BUTTON PRESSED WITHIN 24 HOURS
Following the Abdullah Öcalan's call for a ceasefire, which had a wide repercussion in the world media, eyes turned to Ankara. That day, participation of the Turkish state officials to the funeral of a soldier who died in the clashes in Kurdistan was perceived as a response to the Kurdish People's Leader. Turkish media has already featured the funeral ceremony with the title "A show of force against Apo". After the funeral ceremony where slogans such as "Mehmetçik (a name used to refer to any enlisted man in the Turkish army) is here, where is Apo?" are chanted, Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz made the following statement: “If he realizes it is desperate to fight the Turkish state and takes a step to surrender, I see it positively. However, it is futile if he is looking for achieving a place for himself in the political platform in Europe. We will never address ourselves to him. But if he says, "I am desperate and I want to surrender", if he is making a smooth transition, then he can continue. "
Similarly, the then Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit said, "We cannot discuss the problems of our country with a separatist terrorist organization." The only support for the ceasefire came from HADEP. The following statement was made from the HADEP Headquarters on that day: “An opportunity has arisen to create a discussion environment for the solution of the Kurdish issue through peaceful democratic methods and the end of the 15-year war. Since no social problem can be solved through the methods of violence, social problems cannot be eliminated by using violence. Turkey needs a democratic courage. Everyone living in Turkey and loving its people, must contribute to the ceasefire process. "
PRESSURE ON THE DAMASCUS ADMINISTRATION
The situation of Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan was on the agenda of Mesut Yılmaz, who went on a tour of the Middle East covering Jordan, Israel and Palestine in the first week of September. During his visit to Palestine on September 8, Yılmaz made the statement concerning Syria, which criticized his Middle East tour: "You are the biggest troublemaker". A move was made to put pressure on the Damascus administration. It was later revealed that during Yilmaz’s Tel Aviv trip, a secret cooperation was reached among Jordan, Israel and Turkey. Apart from Yilmaz, Jordan's intelligence chief General Semih Westki went to Tel Aviv for the deals. It was agreed that The Jordanian and Israeli intelligence, which dominated the Middle East, would deliver information to Ankara about Abdullah Öcalan in Syria and the PKK forces in Southern Kurdistan, and the Turkish state in return would open its airspace to training flights of both countries. In those days, the Israeli press made public that MOSSAD was monitoring the PKK activity in Iraq and Syria with its Ofeq satellite.
TWO CRITICAL DEVELOPMENTS ON 16 AND 17 SEPTEMBER
According to the Kurdish People's Leader, the initiatives for a ceasefire and the opening of the dialogue channel by the Turkish General Staff were only tricks. But despite this, he did not want to be the party that broke the ceasefire. On September 14, 1998, another note was sent from the General Staff to the PKK front. The message said, “We are finishing the negotiations until a further development”. The development that changed the course of events was the arrival of Atilla Ateş, the commander of the Turkish Land Forces, to Reyhanlı district of Hatay on September 16, 1998. At the zero point of the Syrian border, Ateş said, “Our patience is running out”. He openly threatened the Syrian administration led by Hafez Assad.
A day later, on September 17, a critical development was to take place in Washington, the US capital. Washington initiated talks in Dublin and Ankara between KDP and PUK that fought with each other for many years, supervised by Turkey and Britain to compromise an agreement. Barzani and Talabani, who signed the protocol prepared by the US administration, declared that they made peace.
One of the main articles of the agreement reached in that meeting, which is imprinted on the memories when the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who attended the signing ceremony, raised the hands of Barzani and Talabani, was the removal of PKK forces in Southern Kurdistan. Both Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish guerrilla were given the message "You cannot live anywhere". Thus, both internal and external conditions were now ready for the first act of the International Conspiracy to take place on October 9 ...