Turkey to hold talks with Kurd militants

November 20, 2012 - 4:38:47 am

ANKARA: Turkey opened the door to talks with Kurdish militants it brands  terrorists yesterday, 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 highly controversial, 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 organisation and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is under pressure to stem the violence, which has included bomb attacks in major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir as well as clashes with the military in the 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.   

Ocalan has significant support among Kurds but is widely reviled by Turks who hold him responsible for the violence.