Turkey on Italy over PKK and Ocalan (1998)

Suggested Citation: Neophytos G. Loizides, Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003 Dataset , Queen's University Belfast (available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentrefortheStudyofEthnicConflict/TeachingResearch/Datasets/Greek-TurkishNegotiationsandCrises1983-2003/#d.en.173636)

Case Summary:

Following the October 1998 Turkish ultimatum against Syria, Damascus gives in, and Öcalan leaves Syria for Russia . He is eventually arrested in Italy, which refuses to extradite him to Turkey . Lexis/Nexis provides 122 results for the terms “Turkey,” “ Italy ,” PKK, and “crisis” for the period 11/1/1998 to 12/1/1998 (full text search under European News Sources).


Case Study Features

Effectiveness of Offensive Policies: 1

There is a high cost of inaction for Turkey , as Kurdish nationalism is gaining ground and legitimacy, especially in a large European country.[i] Turkey represents a large market for Italy , which seems extremely vulnerable to threats for a commercial boycott.

Offensive vs. Defensive Signals Indistinguishable: 0

Italy claims that its constitution cannot allow extradition of the PKK leader to a government that supports the death penalty (as Turkey does).[ii] Turkey claims that the arrest of the PKK leader is essential in fighting terrorism.

Enduring Ethnic Rivalries : 1

Rivalries result from PKK activities since the mid-1980s, as well as from the exclusion of Turkey from the enlarged EU.

Domestic Challenges : 1

PM Mesut Yilmaz, who faces scandals[iii] and elections next April, needs an excuse to stay in power and postpone the elections. President Demirel aims to widen his powers.[iv] Despite a domestic political crisis, PM Yilmaz can count on broad support in his standoff with Italy .[v]

Confrontational Policies (dependent variable): 1

Italy ’s policy causes the outrage of hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens and the boycott of Italian products in the country.[vi]

[i] Rana Dogar, Mark Dennis, Sami Kohen, Joseph Contreras, Stefan Theil, Barbie Nadeau, Carla Power, Amanda Bernard, “Turkey vs. Europe” Newsweek, November 30, 1998, p.9.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “Turkish government set to fall as political crisis comes to a head,” Agence France Presse, November 23, 1998.

[iv] Christopher de Bellaigue, “Turkey's generals spoiling for a fight with Kurds' 'protector': Ankara is desperate to finish off Kurdish guerrillas, even if it takes a war with Syria ,” Financial Times, October 10, 1998, p.3.

[v] Lucian Kim, “How the case of a Kurdish rebel divides NATO allies”, Christian Science Monitor, November 30, 1998, p.7.

[vi] Although the government does not organize itself the boycott, it helps initiate it through its political statements and its own boycott of Italian military equipment. Agence France Presse , “ Turkey threatens Italy with arms and trade boycott over Ocalan,” November 22, 1998.