Turkey has taken a major step toward calming its decades-long struggle with its Kurdish population, the Washington Post reports:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has proposed legislation intended to help move forward a stalled peace process with the Kurdish rebels.The government submitted draft legislation on Thursday, weeks ahead of presidential elections in which Erdogan is expected to run. The legislation could help Erdogan win Kurdish votes.The legislation would empower the government to take all measures it deems necessary to advance talks, including steps to “rehabilitate” Kurdish fighters who lay down arms. Officials involved in talks with the rebel group — formally designated as a terrorist organization — would be immune from prosecution.
If the measure is successful, it may also be a milestone in Turkey’s ongoing rapprochement with Iraqi Kurdistan. Ankara has supported enhanced autonomy for the Kurds, and has even hinted that it wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to independence. A new dynamic seems to be emerging, and calming Turkey’s internal ethnic feud will undoubtedly help that process.Meanwhile, Kurdish aspirations may be be boosted by support from Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday that Kurdish independence was a “foregone conclusion”—and that Israel would probably be among the first to recognize the new state when that day comes.The Israelis also made a substantial gesture of assistance when they bought the first tanker full of Kurdish oil despite Iraqi protests. This oil had been piped through Turkey, and therefore raises the prospect of a Turkish-Kurdish-Israeli alignment built on economic interests and a shared desire to contain the region’s chaos.Kurdistan seems well poised to determine its destiny, not only due to the collapse of the Iraqi army, but because of new oil wealth from Kirkuk, which the Kurds constitutionally incorporated into the Kurdish autonomous region this week. They also outlined a plan to boost oil exports by up to eight-fold by the end of next year.The new phase of conflict in Iraq is far from over, but so far the Kurds have reason to hope it may leave them better off in the long run.