Kurds still want more autonomy though say peace effort is sincere

Wed Jan 9, 2013 12:23pm EST
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By Jonathon Burch and Gulsen Solaker

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party said on Wednesday a new push to find a political solution to the long Kurdish conflict appeared to be serious but greater autonomy for the Kurds was still a main demand.

The prospect of an end to three decades of war between the Turkish army and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) surfaced in recent weeks after the government acknowledged it was talking to the insurgents' jailed leader.

Turkish media reports this week said a framework for a peace plan had been agreed with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. But they made no reference to an independent Kurdistan or to "democratic autonomy", a concept previously proposed by Kurdish politicians.

"How this autonomy will be created, what it will consist of, can be discussed but to say we have given up on autonomy from the Kurdish standpoint is wrong," said Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas.

"Only the way this will be implemented can change," he told Reuters in an interview at his parliament office in Ankara.

The conflict in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, a remote and mountainous region bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria, has killed 40,000 people since the PKK took up arms in 1984. It has included bomb attacks in cities around the country.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday the authorities were taking a two-pronged approach, with the state intelligence agency talking to Ocalan, imprisoned on an island in the Marmara Sea since his capture in 1999, and the government talking to Kurdish politicians.

Previous negotiations with the PKK were secretive and largely appeared to have run aground but Demirtas said the latest contacts had so far given grounds for hope.   Continued...