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Turkish PM signals ramped-up efforts to boost Kurdish rights

Last Updated: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 11:21

Istanbul: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said parliament could cut its summer recess short to vote on reforms aimed at increasing Kurdish rights, amid calls for the peace process to pick up speed.

The move, on Wednesday, comes as Kurdish rebels have grown increasingly impatient in recent weeks about the fragile peace efforts, urging the government to deliver promised reforms in return for withdrawing their fighters from Turkey.

Erdogan said lawmakers were working on laws to improve the minority group`s democratic and political rights.

"My friends are now completing their work on these articles and God willing we will announce this democratisation package," he told reporters in comments broadcast on the private NTV television station.

"It`s possible this will lead to an earlier than anticipated return of parliament."

Lawmakers normally return from their summer break on October 1.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers` Party last week set a September 1 deadline for Ankara to advance the peace process, warning that it would otherwise take unspecified action.

Turkish authorities have been in talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan since late 2012 for an end to the Kurdish conflict, which has cost some 45,000 lives since 1984.

Ocalan, serving a life sentence for treason and separatism, announced a historic ceasefire with the government in March.

As part of the truce, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies, agreed to withdraw its estimated 2,000 fighters from Turkey to their bases in northern Iraq.

In return, it has climbed down from its demands for independence and is now seeking wider constitutional rights for Turkey`s 15 million Kurds, including more autonomy and a right to Kurdish language education.

Lawmakers are also discussing lowering the electoral threshold and changes to anti-terror laws as part of the reform package to address Kurdish concerns, according to local media.


First Published: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 11:21
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