Turkish intelligence agents have been making the short hop from Istanbul across the Sea of Marmara to the prison Island of Imrali in recent weeks for talks with a jailed Kurdish separatist leader who was once Turkey's most wanted man, a PKK source revealed on Sunday.
Abdullah Ocalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party has been languishing on Imrali since he was captured in Nairobi in 1999 while on the run. He is serving a life term after a death sentence was commuted.
A PKK source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the confidential nature of his information, told FNA that "Americans and Israelis who are fed up with the rather slow and fruitless nature of the western sanctions against the Islamic Republic have been pressuring the Turkish premier to provoke and mobilize the Kurdish population in Western Iran against the Tehran government".
"Turkish intelligence officers have met PKK Leader Ocalan at Erdogan's direct orders and made many vows in the meeting," said the source.
According to the source, Turkey has been saying that it "fears that an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria would become a haven for Kurdish militants to carry out cross-border attacks in the Kurdish areas in Southeastern Turkey and it, thus, wants to allow the Kurds to establish their state there, but the only obstacle on the way of the establishment of such a state is Iran's Kurdish population".
"The Turkish officers have told Ocalan very openly that Erdogan has, thus, issued orders for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in Southeastern Turkey, telling him that the Kurdish population in Syria will soon be granted or gain autonomy similar to the autonomous Kurdish government in Northern Iraq and the only Kurdish population which needs to move to join other Kurdish populations remains in Iran," said the source.
"Our problem is the Iranian Kurds and once you and the Iranian Kurds come to a conclusion, we will allow you to establish an independent Kurdish state in Southeastern Turkey," the source quoted the Turkish intelligence agents as saying during the meeting with Ocalan.
Tensions over Syria and the Kurdish issue have also led to a souring of Turkey's relations with Iran and the Iraqi government in Baghdad, as Ankara struggled to project its problem with its Kurdish population onto its Southern and Western neighbors.
Turkey first sought to keep the meeting confidential, but after some media revelations, the government in Ankara confirmed that its intelligence agents have had a meeting with the PKK leader and told him that the Turkish government wants his help to end a resurgent war with PKK rebels that has claimed around 900 lives in the past year and a half.
The Turkish prime minister revealed the dialogue last week when he told state-run TRT television, "I cannot hold such meetings myself as a politician, but the state has agents and they do."
But, Ankara alleged that it has requested the PKK leader to come to terms with the Turkish leader by asking his comrades to disarm. In an acknowledgement that the latest escalation in a three-decade battle against the Kurdish insurgents was probably unwinnable, Yalcin Akdogan, a senior adviser to Erdogan, said that the talks were aimed at persuading the PKK to disarm.
There is a question mark over how much authority the jailed Ocalan has over the PKK leadership, which is based in the Qandil mountains in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. "He remains a figure of symbolic importance," Akdogan said of the PKK founder. "But we still have to wait and see how Qandil will react."
Years of war between Turks and Kurds has cost 40,000 lives, including those of Turkish and Kurdish civilians. The PKK is regarded as a terrorist organization by, among others, the United States and the European Union.
However, the Turkish authorities have not shrunk from dealing with Mr. Ocalan in the past to attain their goals.
In November, he saved the authorities from an escalating crisis that threatened to worsen tensions with the Kurds by calling on hundreds of his imprisoned supporters to halt a two-month hunger strike. The protesters had been demanding an end to Ocalan's isolation and improved rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority, which makes up 20 percent of its population.
Yet, the source told FNA that PKK leaders may not accept Erdogan's offer "since they know he wants to exercise the US and Israeli plot against Iran and, meantime, disintegrate Syria to facilitate Bashar al-Assad's government, but once he is through with the present crisis he will reject having made such a deal and will renew attacks and suppression of Turkey's Kurdish population".
"Thus, both Ocalan and other PKK leaders are unlikely to be fooled by this empty offer," the source reiterated.