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 Turkey's political leaders discuss how to end Kurdish insurgency

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Turkey's political leaders discuss how to end Kurdish insurgency  7.6.2012  
By Dorian Jones - VOA

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, April 5, 2012.  Photo: Reuters.
June 7, 2012

ISTANBUL, How to resolve a more than three-decade Kurdish insurgency in Turkey was the topic of a rare meeting Wednesday between the country's prime minister and main opposition political leader.

The one-hour meeting between Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the leader of the main opposition People's Republican Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu was described as positive by both sides. The talk focused on the opposition initiative to bring an end to the insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers Party, which says it is fighting for greater minority rights.

One of the architects of the initiative, Farok Logoglu, said the meeting was productive.

He says the opposition will be flexible in its approach and is ready to negotiate.

The 10-point plan includes creating a cross-party commission and a 12 person committee selected by the four parliamentary parties.

The country's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party BDP has already expressed its support. Ruling AK Party Deputy Chairman Omer Celick welcomed the initiative, but questioned how political consensus can be achieved.

He said his party is in principle not against the proposal that all parties participate in a commission. But he said the biggest hurdle will be getting all to participate. He said there well may be strong opposition from the National Action Party, but their participation is crucial.

Before Wednesday's meeting, the leader of the pro-nationalist National Action Party, Devlet Bahceli, condemned the intiative, saying it rewards terrorism.

The conflict has escalated in recent months, with the Kurdish PKK rebels stepping up operations. The government has taken an increasingly tough stance since its own Kurdish initiative ended in failure and mutual recrimination.

In addition, during last year's general election Prime Minister Erdogan courted the Turkish nationalist vote with a tough stance against the PKK, declaring there is only a terrorism problem. Since his victory he has maintained that position.

But political columnist Asli Aydintasbas of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet says this is the first opposition initiative on the Kurdish issue.

"This is the first time they [are] actually being progressive and taking the Kurdish issue and forcing the government to sit down and start thinking of ways to address that. The two leaders really do not like each other, but sometimes things have the dynamics of their own. It may just change the atmosphere and climate in the country," Aydintasbas said.

Another factor driving the initiative may be growing regional turmoil. Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast borders Syria and Iraq, which also have large Kurdish minorities.

Kadir Has University international-relations expert Soli Ozel says Ankara needs a new approach as the country's Kurdish problem is no longer just a domestic issue.

"Iraqi Kurds, in all but name, are independent. Syrian Kurds are going to have a different status no matter how the debacle in Syria ends. And the Kurdish issue has become a trans-national, regional issue, a trans-border issue, and with an increasing level of national consciousness," Ozel said.

Ankara has accused Damascus of giving PKK rebels a free hand in its territory. The ruling AK party has warned the latest initiative to end the insurgency should be given weeks, not months, to achieve political consensus. Observers say that maybe difficult, but with the region facing growing turmoil the pressure to end the insurgency is likely to grow.

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