World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey's peace talks with Kurdish rebels are advancing despite recent unrest in the southeast, representatives of both sides said, and could boost Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's hopes of becoming president.
A parliamentary delegation from Turkey's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) visited the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Sunday.
According to a statement released by HDP, Abdullah Ocalan told the delegation that the government initiative called "the solution process" entered a new phase.
"At the point reached, there was a significant hope for a serious beginning and this hope must be protected and developed," Ocalan said, according to a statement. "In the previous state of affairs, there was a hope for a new, serious beginning. This hope must be protected and enhanced."
Sirri Sureyya Onder, deputy HDP leader and a member of the delegation to Imrali, said the government was showing the will to put the peace talks on a legal footing and had moved beyond bureaucratic talk to discussions between political delegations.
"If the government approaches this seriously, many things viewed as problem areas could disappear within a couple of weeks," Onder was quoted as saying by Dogan news agency, adding that talks with Ocalan were set to become more frequent.
Turkey's 'solution process' began early last year with a ceasefire between the Turkish government and PKK. The government pledged democratic reforms to empower minorities, particularly the Kurdish minority, which is by far the largest forming 18 percent of the population.
Ocalan was arrested by Turkish forces in 1999 and sentenced to death for forming armed gangs under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment as the death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004.
“Ocalan stressed the importance of media's constructive stance which has to be taken considering that we have been entering a very historic process," the HDP statement said.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
The optimistic tone follows a meeting held by Erdogan and top officials on May 19 to discuss the peace process, talks which Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said were "critical."
"The decision was taken to work on a new, more concrete road map and to take faster steps towards a conclusion," Atalay said of the meeting in an interview on the Kanal 7 channel on Sunday.
"Some are uneasy with the settlement process and are looking at how they can sabotage it," Atalay said, adding that security forces would intervene as necessary.
"We as the government are showing our determination on the settlement process and will continue to do so until the end. There is no deviation in our will," he added.
Thirteen security servicemen were injured, one in an armed attack, in clashes over the last week with PKK in Turkey's southeastern Diyarbakir province, the city governor's office has said.
It said in a statement on Sunday that PKK militants and affiliate groups since May 24 have engaged in kidnaps, roadblocks and attacked security forces with home-made explosives and firebombs.
On one occasion, militants opened fire on servicemen with long-range rifles, shooting a member of security personnel, who is being treated for a chest wound at the intensive care unit of a local hospital, the statement said.
It said security forces detected 54 separate events over the last week that disrupted public order.
On Saturday, a group of 50-60 men attempted to block the road that links Diyarbakir with neighboring Bingol province, using heavy-duty vehicles that belonged to a local construction company.
The statement said the group acted "under the guise of public assembly," but produced long-range arms when confronted by security forces.
The governor's office said that the group tried to use civilians as human shields, shooting at servicemen in an attempt to force them to return fire.
16 people were detained in clashes, the statement added.
The events come after the PKK reportedly kidnapped an unknown number of children on April 23, the national day for children, threatening to destabilize a delicate 'solution process' to end terrorism and address the issues of minorities, particularly those of the Kurdish minority which is by far the largest accounting for 18 percent of the population.
On Saturday, families of some of the kidnapped children staged sit-ins in Diyarbakir where they were abducted, marking the first-ever public reaction to such kidnappings in the southeastern region. The protests received support from high-ranking government officials, including deputy prime ministers Emrullah Isler and Besir Atalay.
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) won a re-run local election ahead of Erdogan's AK Party in eastern Agri province on Sunday, a development which could help lower tension in the region and foster positive sentiment towards the talks.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Haziran 2014, 16:49