Turkey says it will hold talks with Kurdish militants
By Pinar Aydinli
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey opened the door to talks with Kurdish militants it brands terrorists on Monday, raising hopes of a push to end a conflict which has killed tens of thousands of people and stunted development in its mainly Kurdish southeast.
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said talks would be held with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, Turkey's main domestic security threat, which took up arms almost three decades ago and seeks Kurdish autonomy.
"These talks have been held as and when deemed necessary in the past, and will be held in the future," Ergin told reporters in Ankara. He did not elaborate.
Talks between the Turkish state and the PKK were unthinkable until only a few years ago and more recent contacts have proved politically fraught, with parts of the nationalist opposition strongly condemning any suggestion of negotiations.
Turkey, the United States and the European Union designate the PKK a terrorist organization. But Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is under pressure to stem the violence, which has included bomb attacks in major cities such as well as clashes with the military in the mountainous southeast.
Ergin's comments followed the end of a 68-day hunger strike by hundreds of PKK militants in prisons across Turkey on Sunday, after an appeal from their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Imprisoned on Imrali island in the Marmara Sea south of Istanbul since his capture in 1999, Ocalan has significant support among Kurds but is widely reviled by Turks who hold him responsible for the violence.
Ocalan's call from Imrali came after he held a couple of months of talks with Turkish officials, according to Nihat Ali Ozcan, security analyst at the TEPAV think-tank in Ankara, adding that the talks could lead to a PKK ceasefire. Continued...