The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) delegation, consisting of Selahattin Demirtas and Gultan Kisanak, co-chairs of the party, Ahmet Turk , the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) chairman and member of the Turkish Parliament from Mardin, as well as Van MP Nazmi Gur, visited the U.S. on Monday, April 23.
The delegation's visiting program started with a meeting with Qubad Talabani, the Kurdistan Regional Government's representative in the U.S. The meeting with Talabani was about the recent political developments in the Middle East, Syrian crises and the situation of Syrian Kurds. They also discussed the Grand Kurdish National Conference to be organized in Erbil with the participation of Kurdish parties, institutions and organizations from all parts of Kurdistan. Although the date of national conference is not certain, the main purpose of this conference is to contribute actively to a democratic solution of the Kurdish issue.
The BDP delegation met with Namik Tan, Turkish Ambassador to the US. The meeting with Tan addressed American foreign policy and Turkish foreign affairs. They also visited the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip Gordon.
The BDP delegation met with Turkish journalists and spoke about the armed struggle of the Kurdistan Workers Party and military operations of the Turkish State, events in Syria as well as a possible referendum for independence in Kurdistan Region. Journalists asked questions about the recent statement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said Turkish military operations would cease if PKK laid down its arms during his official visit in Qatar. Selahattin Demirtas answered: "Of course, we [the BDP] desire to end this violence. If the PKK shows a positive stance, we support it. But if PM Erdogan calls for a cease-fire, he should make clearer statements." He also mentioned Turkey's Syrian policy by saying that Turkey aims to prevent the autonomy of Kurds in post-Assad Syria. "Turkey insists upon the Syrian National Council in order to avoid promising a certain political status for Kurds," he added.
Asked about the current political crises in Iraq and KRG President Massoud Barzani's statements concerning the right of self-determination for Kurds, Demirtas answered: "The Iraqi people's demand for a new political status is their right, but this should be realized through peaceful ways. If this new situation would bring about the risk of bloody wars at a regional level and ethnical conflicts, it should be more careful. In this regard, if the last developments in Syria, Iraq and Iran are taken into consideration, there is such a risk."
The delegation also attended a press conference at Brookings Institute on Thursday. In this conference, Demirtas defined the Kurdish issue in Turkey as an economic and political matter. He argued that the Kurdish issue should be taken into consideration as a question of the right of self-government as well.
"From our perspective, Kurdish conflict in Turkey is not a problem between Turkish people and Kurdish people; it is a conflict between a state and Kurdish people who have been subject to assimilation and denial of their identity," he said. He underlined two principles for solving Kurdish issue, adding that "our first and foremost principle is that these matters should be taken into consideration without any elements of violence in this sense. This matter has to be communicated with dialogue, collective and constructive dialogue. And the second principle will be to look at the Kurdish conflict in the Middle East, in the respective countries, without bringing the state integrity, their territorial integrity, into the questions. So, in that sense, their territorial integrity will be out of discussion." In his speech, he also pointed out that the PKK is a reality of the Kurdish issue; because of this, the Turkish State has to accept the PKK as an actor to solve the problem.
Speaking after Demirtas, Ahmet Turk emphasized that violence is not a way of resolving the Kurdish issue, adding that this issue will be solved with negotiation and dialogue. Turk also indicated that Kurds want to solve this question in unity the Turkish State and framework of democratic rights. Gultan Kısanak also said that the BDP is against any kind of violence and they have supported peaceful methods to solve the Kurdish issue. She spoke about tensions between Syria and Turkey by saying that the "Turkish PM may call every day on the government of Syria asking them not to use violence, oppression, and all other measures to oppress people to try to maintain their status quo. He says that if you use measure of oppression and extreme measures to justify this, your authority on these people, you will lose your legitimacy. We applaud that, we agree with that. These are great words, but we call on PM Erdogan to employ the same measures in Turkey as well."
After the BDP delegation's visit, some Turkish opinion-makers stated that the BDP wants to move the Kurdish issue to an international platform. But Turkish President Abdullah Gul rejected these interpretations. He evaluated the delegation's trip in the U.S. as ordinary event, adding, "the BDP is not trying to carry the issue to an international platform, but the world public opinion watches Turkey very closely. This kind of visit shouldn't be evaluated as extraordinary activities."