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Germany’s Kurdish and PKK Policy: Balance and Strategy

Motivated by the allegations of Germany’s indirect support for the PKK, voiced frequently in recent years among the Turkish public, this study aims to analyze Germany’s Kurdish policy in general, and PKK policy in particular. The author posits that even though Berlin does not want to acknowledge that the PKK question impacts its country and seeks to keep the negative effects of it away from its soil, developments have pushed the German governments to follow a well-balanced political approach to the PKK question, which has significant domestic and foreign political dimensions for Germany. The article further argues that although Germany’s politics of balance disappoints and even frustrates Turkey and the PKK leadership alike at times, the policy has remained unchanged for years and seems unlikely to change in the future.

Germany s Kurdish and PKK Policy Balance and Strategy
Young men hold Kurdish flags near a banner reading “Weapons for YPG” during a demonstration of Pro-PKK supporters in Hamburg on November 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ
 

Introduction

The activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, or PKK) have been outlawed in Germany since 1993. The organization, however, remains active in the country through the proxy of a series of affiliated associations –which is interpreted in Turkey as proof of Germany’s tacit support of PKK terror. In this regard, Turkish officials and representatives have repeatedly called on German authorities to take more decisive steps against the group and show zero tolerance to terrorism.1 Although Germany refuses to meet Turkey’s demands and continues to turn a blind eye to the PKK’s activities, German authorities have at times cracked down on terror networks extensively and, other times, loosened their grip on the organization, which has been closely associated with the cyclical developments. Meanwhile, the German government tends to closely follow developments in Turkey, on which the PKK’s armed struggle primarily focuses. In this sense, Germany has been watching the PKK’s return to violence and a series of counter-terror operations conducted by the security forces since July 22, 2015.

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