Josette Durrieu of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – Turkey visit

Josette Durrieu, rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has made a fact-finding visit to Istanbul, Sanliurfa and Ankara from 30 April to 4 May in the context of post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey so as to evaluate the country’s progress with regard to the outstanding questions set out in the Assembly’s most recent post-monitoring resolution.

In Istanbul, meetings were scheduled with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Armenian Patriarchal Archbishop Aram Atesyan, representatives of the Alevi community, public prosecutors and NGO and media representatives.

On May 2 and 3 Ms Durrieu visited the area near the border with Syria where she met the Governors and local authority representatives in Sanliurfa and Suruç and also representatives of the Prime Minister’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), NGOs and the media. She has also visited independent refugee camps in the region.

Concerning her visit of the refugee camps she stated: “The reality of what remains today of the town of Kobanê, to which we had access, is staggering. It is a town that has been completely destroyed to which 60,000 refugees have returned, attempting to survive among the ruins and in the surrounding villages. It is therefore absolutely urgent that the humanitarian aid which is blocked in Turkey and is intended for these populations in desperate need can reach them”.

She afterwards went to Ankara to meet Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the peace process, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Interior and Justice, and the Minister for Family and Social Policy. Ms Durrieu has also met with the Chairman of the Turkish delegation to PACE, the President of the Constitutional Court and representatives of the HDP party’s delegation in charge of peace process contacts and of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On May 5 and 6, the rapporteur also participated in the pre-electoral mission carried out by PACE with a view to the parliamentary elections taking place on 7 June.

As a conclusion of the visit, she stated: “It is in this troubled geopolitical context that Turkey is pursuing its process of transformation. The parliamentary elections of 7 June 2015 could change the political landscape, depending on the political choices made by Turkish voters for the future of their country.

A process to solve the Kurdish issue was initiated by the government and Kurdish representatives in 2013, resulting in a joint press conference on 28 February 2015 held by the Turkish government and representatives of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), reflecting the will of both sides to pursue discussions based on a ten-point road map. As the elections draw near, I note a pause in this process. A solution to the Kurdish issue was at the heart of my discussions with the leading players in this process, in particular Deputy Prime Minister Yalçin Akdogan and the HDP member of the National Assembly, Sirri Süreyya Önder (who regularly visits Abdullah Öcalan on the island of Imrali), the stakeholders in the current discussions; the results of the parliamentary elections, and whether or not the HDP will manage to cross the 10 per cent electoral threshold – which the Parliamentary Assembly has been urging be lowered since 2004 – will be crucial for the continuation of the discussions. I hope that all the relevant players will resume dialogue as soon as possible, in particular in the anticipated discussions on reform of the constitution which the Assembly has been calling for since 2004, which should focus on redefining citizenship, individual rights, devolution and the balance between government and the opposition. Such an approach could also help ensure the success of a process to solve the Kurdish question which the population currently supports. It will be up to the political leaders from all parties to rise to this historic challenge and provide appropriate responses to the legitimate aspirations for peace expressed by the vast majority of their fellow citizens.

As a founder member of the Council of Europe and soon to be a major contributor of the Organisation, it is up to Turkey to master these new democratic challenges, and in particular preserve and develop individual freedoms. There is a fear that these freedoms could be called into question unless appropriate political will is shown.”