In order to address the critical need to end the conflict, the GUE/NGL group and the EU-Turkey Civic Commission, in cooperation with the Kurdish Institute of Brussels organised the 12th International Conference on 'the European Union, Turkey, the Middle East and the Kurds'.
The event took place at the European Parliament, in Brussels on 26 and 27 January.
It brought together high level participants including Nobel Peace prizes laureates, MEPs, Kurdish leaders, journalists, politicians, academics, stakeholders and experts from Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
This two day conference was the opportunity to have an enriching debate on the recurrent conflict between the oppressed Kurdish minority and the Turkish government, and to discuss potential solutions.
Regarding to the hundreds of Kurdish civilians being killed, including women and children and the establishment of a curfew, GUE/NGL President, Gabriele Zimmer, opened the conference, declaring: “We are facing humanitarian catastrophe in Southeast Turkey. We call call upon the EU to address the Turkish government to reinitiate the peace process”.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to that. We are talking about saving people's lives, and that is the responsibility of all of us.
“The GUE/NGL, as a political group, is trying to gather information, bring it to the public eye and put pressure on the European Union. “.
Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, stressed the misrepresentation of the conflict by the media, arguing that “it is very important to use the right words: this is not a civil war, this is a war against the civilians, which is very different!”
Professor Susan Breau from the University of Reding agreed, adding that in her opinion “The conflict qualifies as an international armed conflict', humanitarian law should automatically apply.
Almost all of the panellists agreed on the first step to the final solution: removing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) from the EU's list of terrorist organisations. The assaults PKK is taking against Erdoğan's troops attack is a mere reaction to the Turkish government violence in the Southeast Turkey.
Supporting this point, the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi drew a parallel between the PKK and Nelson Mandela to explain the context of people fighting for their rights: “Back then the South African leader was treated as a criminal and imprisoned, whereas years later he was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize!”
Several speakers highlighted the role of the PKK as an important actor in the fight against ISIS and terrorism. The PKK should thus be entitled to be an official interlocutor with the EU for negotiating the peace process in the Middle East, in order to bring stability to the region.
In fact, Mr. Rewar Resid, Co-President of KNK (Kurdistan National Congress) explained: “Encouraging the peace process in the area implies lowering the number of families fleeing from the Middle East, thus helping to solve the refugee crisis that the EU is facing”.
To put these proposals into effect, the EU could use Turkey's accession to the EU as a political leverage to persuade Erdoğan to come up with a peaceful and sustainable solution to the conflict.
Regarding Turkey's accession to the EU, Cypriot MEP, Takis Hadjigeorgiou, raised the critical issue of Turkey's occupation of Cyprus, declaring: “If there is going to be a solution to the Cyprus question, we might be able to open more chapters in the negotiations over Turkey’s accession.”
The event concluded with a unanimous agreement the need for EU intervention to play the role of mediator, calling on the Turkish authorities to end the brutality against Kurdish civilians. The solution to this conflict should be the recognition of Kurdish people right to self-determination and self-governance.