Breakthrough in Turkey?
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th August, 2010
Government officials in Ankara have confirmed that talks have been held with the imprisoned leader of the banned Kurdish PKK military group, Abdullah Ocalan. In fact, according to reports in the Turkish press, such exchanges with the prisoner have been going on secretly for some time. The new openness has come about partly because Mr Ocalan — not for the first time — has called for a ceasefire in the fighting, which has cost thousands of lives directly or indirectly over the past few decades. And he has refused to endorse a boycott of the referendum that will be held next month on a new constitution for the country. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is gambling a great deal by promoting this Constitution, which he hopes will bring Turkey a further step nearer to a European norm, thereby perhaps enhancing Turkey’s chances of EU membership. Predictably, some opposition parties have lambasted him for this and have accused him of trying to woo Kurdiah voters by his more conciliatory approach. Kurds make up about 20 per cent of Turkey’s population, but have long suffered political and cultural oppression. Under the government, significant improvements have been made in Kurdish rights, though there is still a long way to go, as indeed is the case with freedom of expression issues generally in Turkey.