Saturday, October 24, 2009

Turkish PM: Kurdish reforms depend on rebels

Ankara - Turkey's plans to expand Kurdish reforms will falter if PKK rebels do not surrender, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in comments published Friday.

His warning came amid widespread criticism of the government's alleged lenient treatment of a group of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels who walked free shortly after crossing into Turkey from Iraq on Monday and were welcomed by thousands of Kurds.

Erdogan warned that public discomfort over the hero's welcome given to the rebels could hamper government plans to grant the Kurdish community more rights.

"This could negatively affect the process... We would not want it, but it could throw us right back where we started," he said.

He underlined that the reform process would continue smoothly if PKK rebels abandoned their armed campaign and turned themselves in.

"We expect these (surrenders) to continue. If they do not, there is nothing we can do," Erdogan stressed.

Although Turkish officials have described the rebel group's arrival on Monday as "surrender", the PKK has said they were "envoys" dispatched to bring the group's proposals to end the violence.

The group also said it would not it would not lay down arms. Another ‘PKK peace group’ is expected to come from Europe on 28 October. Since August, Ankara has been working on a raft of democratic reforms to address Kurdish grievances, but it has also vowed to pursue military action against the PKK.

More than 45,000 people have been killed since 1984 in the conflict between the state and the PKK.

© Middle East Online