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Rise and Fall of the AK Party’s Kurdish Peace Initiatives

This study analyzes the peace and reconciliation initiatives of the AK Party governments (2002 until 2017) to address the Kurdish Question, with a special focus on the Reconciliation Process. Steps taken throughout the Reconciliation Process and the strengths and weaknesses of these steps are discussed. It is argued that the main challenges and shortcomings were the shifting political priorities of the Kurdish political actors, the changing balance of power within Turkish domestic politics, new opportunities presented to the Kurdish Movement by the Syrian civil war and the uncertainties Turkey faced due to this war. The main conclusion of the paper is that the regional turmoil, especially the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Iraq, is the major determinant that blocked the Reconciliation Process.

Rise and Fall of the AK Party s Kurdish Peace
Then Prime Minister Erdoğan and Kurdish musicians Şivan Perwer and İbrahim Tatlıses participated together in an opening ceremony of a highway in Diyarbakır, November 16, 2013. AA PHOTO / KAYHAN ÖZER

Introduction

The Kurdish Question has been one of the top priority items in domestic politics for the AK Party government. Some serious efforts were made and two major initiatives were conducted by successive AK Party governments to address the Kurdish Question. The most serious effort was the Reconciliation Process (2013-2015). However earlier efforts paved the way for the Reconciliation Process. Erdoğan’s Diyarbakır speech in 2005 signaled a change of opinion on the issue. While, along with the Kurdish Opening (2009), some legal amendments and democratization efforts were made to address the problem. The Reconciliation Process (Çözüm Süreci) was only possible with the backdrop of these earlier efforts. This study analyzes the peace and reconciliation initiatives of the AK Party governments (2002 until 2017) to address the Kurdish Question. More specific emphasis is on the Reconciliation Process or as it is known in Turkish the “Çözüm Süreci.” Steps taken throughout the Reconciliation Process and the strengths and weaknesses of these steps are discussed within the general logic of peace processes.

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