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TURKEY: Signs of progress in making peace with Kurds

August 6, 2009 |  9:40 am

Turkey-erdogan Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk Wednesday suggesting a move towards reconciliation between the government and the main Kurdish political group, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which Turk chairs, according to a report in the  Hurriyet newspaper. 

"We are in the middle of a process, and I believe our hopes for the future have increased with today‚Äôs meeting," Erdogan told reporters.  

Erdogan had refused to meet with the DTP since the 2007 elections because it did not condemn militant activities of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Turkey and the United States consider the militant group a terrorist organization.  

The government's so-called "Kurdish move" is an attempt to resolve decades-old tensions between Kurds, who constitute at least a 12 million-strong minority in Turkey, and the Turkish government.

Erdogan's government has been promoting the initiative under the banner of "greater democratization."  

Turk expressed similar sentiment saying, "We hope and wish to see positive developments for a more democratic process that everybody embraces with love."  

 Turkey's nationalist Republican People's Party (CHP) criticized the move, warning that it could lead to "ethnic separation."  For years in Turkey, Kurds were referred to as "Mountain Turks." The CHP also challenged the legitimacy of the DTP as a negotiating partner.  CHP leader Deniz Baykal called the DTP "the embodiment of the PKK in other formats."

About 40,000 have died in 25 years of fighting between the PKK and the Turkish government. PKK guerrillas based in Northern Iraq were also a point of contention with the United States and the Iraqi government. Just this week, two PKK guerrillas were killed in eastern Turkey.

-- Jahd Khalil in Beirut

Photo: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after a meeting with Ahmet Turk, head of pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday. Credit: Associated Press