Turkish PM: More democracy will finish off PKK militants

Turkish PM Erdogan issued a strong appeal Saturday for expanding the democratic rights of the Kurdish community to erode support for PKK and finish off militants.

Turkish PM: More democracy will finish off PKK militants
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that Turkey had reached "a very critical stage" in its struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and that the militants were "besieged from all sides" with international support.

"The climate of freedoms is an enemy of violence and terrorism," he said in a televised speech at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party in Kizilcahamam, near Ankara.

"So, let's maintain pluralistic democracy and strengthen the climate of freedoms in order to secure the ultimate result in the struggle against terrorism... All experience shows that there is no other way out," he said.

"Let's look together for ways of winning over the people instead of alienating them," he added.

Erdogan's appeal came amid media reports that his government was considering a comprehensive plan to win over the Kurds and erode support for the PKK.

The group, listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and much of the international community, has waged a bloody campaign for self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

Faced with mounting PKK violence, the government, backed by the opposition, obtained parliamentary authorisation last month for a military incursion into neighbouring northern Iraq, where the militants take refuge.

Keen to head off Turkish military action, the United States and the Iraqi Kurds, who run northern Iraq, have agreed to step up measures to curb the PKK.

But Erdogan has also faced mounting calls to back the military struggle with political, social and economic measures to boost the freedoms and the prosperity of the sizeable Kurdish community.

The prime minister stressed Saturday that Turkey should convince the Kurds to seek their rights through politics and not violence.

"If we are to get rid of terrorism, this can become possible by keeping open the door of democratic politics as a way of solving problems and seeking rights," he said.

Erdogan renewed an appeal to Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), to sever alleged links with the PKK.

"Those who fail to abide by democracy and law, can never be accepted to talk tall about being victimised," he said.

Turkey's chief prosecutor last week asked the Constitutional Court to outlaw the DTP, arguing that the party, through its links with the PKK, had become "a hive of activity" targeting the country's unity.

The DTP holds 20 seats in the 550-member parliament. Seventy-five other Kurds have won seats on the ticket of Erdogan's party, which also enjoys strong support in the southeast.

Under European Union pressure, Ankara has in recent years undertaken taboo-breaking reforms to expand Kurdish cultural freedoms, including the inauguration of Kurdish-language broadcasts and private courses teaching the language.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Kasım 2007, 20:20
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