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Arin Savran, ‘When Power Symmetry Doesn’t Advance Negotiations: Discussing the Failure of the Peace Process Between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), 2009-2015’
April 24, 2019 at 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
In 2006, secret talks began between Turkey and the Kurdish PKK rebels with the aim of negotiating a political solution to the armed struggle. The negotiations lead to significant progress that concluded in a ceasefire and PKK withdrawal from Turkey. In 2014, the process arrived at a turning point as the consequences of the war in Syria reconfigured the power dynamics between the two sides, ultimately leading to the collapse of the ceasefire in the summer of 2015. The Turkey–PKK case challenges conventional wisdom on structural conditions to peace, specifically on hurting stalemates, by demonstrating why negotiations ended due to large and rapid shifts in regional power constellations that created uncertainty instead of rapprochement. Kurdish leadership in the war against ISIL had unexpectedly resulted in a substantial political, military and symbolic empowerment of the PKK. This development elevated Turkish fear about implications to status quo since they perceived the situation as a threat to their national and foreign policy interests, which was followed by threats of invasion into Iraq and Syria to stop PKK advancement and territorial control. Adversaries no longer saw political or economic benefits from peace talks and therefore resumed war.
Arin Savran’s lecture is based on her 2018 doctoral dissertation on the Kurdish–Turkish peace process. Savran is currently a visiting scholar at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.