Turkey's President in Diyarbakir amid Kurdish debate

The visit comes as the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party insists on regional autonomy.

Turkey's President in Diyarbakir amid Kurdish debate

Turkey's president ruled out the use of the Kurdish language in official business on Thursday, a day after the country's civilian and military leaders rejected the demands for autonomy.

The visit comes as the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party insists on regional autonomy.

The government expanded the use of Kurdish, including radio and television broadcasts and letting politicians campaign in the language.

But their demands have fueled nationalist sentiment and tensions threaten to derail efforts to end the armed conflict.

"Official language Turkish"

President Abdullah Gul travelled to Diyarbakir, the largest city in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, Thursday and cautioned against exploiting the issue.

"The official language of the Turkish Republic is Turkish, and it will remain as it is," the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Gul as saying. "Separately, the language of the state and public institutions is Turkish too, it is our common language."

Gul has said, "we are proud of our different elements in our nation. We consider those different elements as our assets."

Gul spoke during a meeting with the city's pro-Kurdish mayor, Osman Baydemir, who is a proponent of more Kurdish rights and autonomy demand. He said Kurdish and other languages were part of the country's cultural richness and are safeguarded by the constitution.

Gul said at the meeting, "this is my second visit to Diyarbakir since I was sworn in as the president. Diyarbakir is one of the most significant provinces in Turkey. The province has also been the one of the biggest centers not only in Anatolia, but in the Middle East throughout the history. Diyarbakir is Turkey's open air museum."

"Today, Diyarbakir is of great importance. I believe that the province will further develop. Each province has its own characteristics. Turkey is a big country. We are a great nation. We are proud of our different elements in our nation. We consider those different elements as our assets," the President added.

"Turkish-Kurdish dictionary as a gift"

Baydemir presented Gul a Turkish-Kurdish dictionary as a gift.

Baydemir said peace can only be reached through dialogue and consensus.

Metropolitan Municipality of Diyarbakir released a statement about the presentation of Baydemir to Gul.

Baydemir was reported as saying, "Mr. President, as you have also stated, Kurdish problem is the biggest problem of Turkey" and added that there were proper conditions for the solution of the problem.

"Demands of Kurdish politicians on mother tongue and democratic autonomy can not be endured. This is very worrisome," Baydemir said.

The country's National Security Council responded to Kurdish demands bluntly on Wednesday, saying the country was indivisible and that no attempt at challenging the official Turkish language will be accepted.

"We cannot allow any attempt to deny that the official language of the Turkish Republic, which symbolizes common grounds such as one flag, one nation and one land is Turkish," said the website of the presidential palace, citing the Council statement.

Private courses in Kurdish are available, but the language is not taught in schools. Turkey's constitution says the official language is Turkish and prosecutors are opening investigations into direct challenges to the law. In the eastern town of Erentepe in Mus province, Kurdish authorities have posted dual-language signs at the mayor's office.

Gul was also welcomed by posters in Turkish and Kurdish on Thursday, television reports said.

The Kurdish language debate heated up in November, during the trial of dozens of Kurds, including elected mayors, on charges of having links to the PKK. The court refused the suspects' demand to defend themselves in Kurdish, on grounds that the defendants were fluent in Turkish.


Agencies


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Last Mod: 30 Aralık 2010, 16:32
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