Kurdish rebel group appoints new leader

Updated 12 July 2013
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Kurdish rebel group appoints new leader

ANKARA: The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), engaged in a fragile peace process with the Turkish government after nearly three decades of conflict, has named a hard-line party veteran as its new political leader, local media reported yesterday.
Cemil Bayik, one of the founders of the group which has fought a 29-year nationalist campaign against Ankara, is a close ally of its imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, and is known for his hawkish rhetoric against the government.
In a statement published on pro-Kurd news agency Firat, the PKK announced Bayik would replace the moderate Murat Karayilan, who will however remain head of the group’s military wing. No reason was given for the leadership shake-up.
Turkey and Ocalan in March agreed on a cease-fire as part of renewed efforts to settle the conflict between Ankara and Kurdish fighters fighting for more autonomy.
As part of the truce, the PKK agreed to withdraw its 2,000 estimated fighters from Turkey to their bases in northern Iraq, but the pullout has been slow. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said recently only 20 percent of the militants had left the country.
In return for peace, the PKK has demanded wider constitutional rights for Turkey’s Kurds, who make up around 20 percent of the country’s 75-million population and live mostly in the southeast.
The PKK said it remained committed to peace “despite the unfavorable attitude” of Erdogan’s government.
The prime minister has failed to quell discontent over his increasingly autocratic style among Turks, and the country’s Kurds are also growing tired of what they see as vague promises and a failure to implement demands for greater recognition.
The PKK took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict in which some 45,000 people are estimated to have died.
 


Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

On his first official visit to Israel and Palestine, Prince William is unlikely to talk about politics. Getty Images
Updated 23 June 2018
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Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

  • The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade

LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.

But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.