In 2009 the Turkish government launched a novel initiative to tackle the Kurdish question. The initiative soon ran into deadlock, only to be untangled towards the end of 2012 when a new policy was announced. This comparative paper adopts Michael Barnett’s trinity of identity, narratives and frames to show how a cultural space within which a peaceful engagement with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would be deemed legitimate and desirable was carved out. Comparisons between the two policies reveal that the framing of policy narratives can have a formative impact on their outcomes. The paper demonstrates how the governing quality of firmness fluctuated between different connotations and references, finally leading back to a deep-rooted tradition in Turkish governance.