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 Turkey hails Kurdish group 'surrender'

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Turkey hails Kurdish group 'surrender'  20.10.2009  





October 20, 2009

DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of Turkey, — Turkey on Tuesday hailed the "surrender" of Kurdish rebels in support of plans to end the 25-year conflict, although rebel commanders insisted they would fight on to achieve their rights.

The war of words came after a Kurdish "peace group" of militants and supporters crossed the Habur border gate from Iraqi Kurdistan region on Monday carrying a list of proposals to end the violence and Turkish authorities questioned them.                        

Turkish interior Minister Besir Atalay
Speaking in Ankara, Interior Minister Besir Atalay welcomed the group's arrival as a boost to Ankara's two-pronged plan to expand Kurdish freedoms and keep the outlawed Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) under military pressure.

"We expect these (surrenders) to continue. Let me underline that the (PKK) fighters in the mountains see that their way is a dead-end," Atalay was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying.

Atalay argued that Iraqi Kurdistan region, where the PKK has rear bases, was ceasing to be a safe haven for the militants through Turkish military operations and cooperation with Iraqi authorities,
www.ekurd.netadding: "We expect 100 or 150 people to return in small groups."

But the PKK countered that its militants would not lay down arms and turn themselves in unless Turkey officially recognised its Kurdish community and granted them political rights.

A senior rebel commander said the group that crossed from Iraq were not rebels who had abandoned the struggle, but envoys sent to convey Kurdish demands for a solution.

"This group should not be arrested and they should be respected... If the Turkish state does not arrest them and does not prevent them from expressing themselves, they would help the solution of the problem," Cemil Bayik was quoted by the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency as saying.

Bayik also underlined that PKK militants would not give up their armed struggle as long as Ankara continues military operations against them and fails to take concrete steps to give Kurds political rights.

"How could they (the rebels) come down from the mountains if the mentality does not change in Turkey, if the Kurdish will and identity is not accepted and if Kurds are unable to organise and express themselves?" he asked.

Since August, the government has been trying to build public support for a raft of reforms to expand Kurds' freedoms, but it has also vowed to pursue military action against the PKK, which it considers a terrorist organisation.

Ankara has called on the rebels to turn themselves in and categorically rejected proposals to negotiate with the PKK for a solution.

On Monday, thousands of Kurds shouting slogans in favour of peace had greeted the PKK's 34-strong "peace group" who were immediately detained for questioning upon arrival.

Twenty-nine of them were initially released, while prosecutors asked a court to charge five with unspecified crimes committed in the past, judicial sources said.

The judge, however, released the remaining five as well on account of the fact that they had returned to Turkey of their own free will, the sources added.

The "peace group" included eight PKK rebels and 26 Turkish Kurds from the UN-run Makhmour refugee camp in northern Iraq which houses some 12,000 people who fled Turkey in the 1990s at the peak of the conflict.

The rebels had sent two groups of militants in 1999 on a similar peace initiative, but they were arrested and then jailed for belonging to the PKK.

Since 1984 the PKK took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan) which has claimed around 45,000 lives of Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK guerrillas. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,
www.ekurd.net the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

Ankara is currently working on a package of fresh reforms to expand the freedoms of the Kurdish community, but has rejected calls to halt military action against the PKK.

Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and education in the Kurdish language, but critics say the measures do not go far enough.

The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously rejected due to its alleged political implications by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast Turkey. 

Copyright, respective author or news agency, AFP |  Agencies      

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