Kurdish politician calls for dialogue with PKK

guardian.co.uk - By Owen Bowcott

The prominent Kurdish politician Leyla Zana has called for dialogue to end the quarter century of conflict that has scarred south-eastern Turkey and killed more than 30,000 people.

In a plea for an end to the violence, the former MP - who spent 10 years in prison for using the Kurdish language in the Turkish National Assembly - urged the government to stop bombing rebel bases inside northern Iraq.

Zana, who visited London earlier this month, addressed a meeting on conflict resolution held in Westminster and demanded that the PKK rebel movement, known as the Kurdistan Workers' party, should be included in any peace process.

"I support the peaceful resolution of the problems in order for the PKK to renounce its weapons," the Kurdish politician, speaking through a translator, declared. "The bombs must stop falling out of the sky.

"Kurdish people see the PKK as a kind of assurance. The PKK itself has stated that if the necessary solutions are provided and the attacks on them end and democratic rights [guaranteed] they will be prepared to lay down their weapons. The Kurds are not passionately attached to their weapons.

"If a project is launched ... and both sides are prepared to come to some agreement, then … there will be no more armed activity. If dialogue and reconciliation are required it's necessary to speak to all Kurds, not just some of them," she said.

Zana's comments come at a period of renewed hostility between the rebel group and the Turkish army. Turkish troops have launched several large-scale assaults on PKK bases in mountains that span the border with Iraq this spring. A unilateral ceasefire declared by the PKK two years ago failed to advance political reconciliation between the two sides.

"We can accept the idea of a single state but not one language," Zana told the meeting in London. "The promises of the 1920s – when [Kemal] Ataturk [the founder of the modern Turkish state] mentioned 'Turks' and 'Kurds' - need to be fulfilled. We need a country in which people can live equally."

Zana called for Turkey to be allowed to enter the EU. "There's no way in which a country can live with its problems without outside help," she said. "Turkey is one of those countries.

"I defend and advocate the EU accession process as a good thing. I believe rights and freedoms should be secured in Turkey. I believe it's time for Turkey to join.

"Turkey can play a role as a bridge between the Middle East and Europe. I want every peace-loving person to encourage Turkey to complete this process."

Zana, 48, who is seen as a popular figurehead for Kurdish demands for language rights and greater regional autonomy, is still facing up to two years in prison for allegedly praising the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan.

At the end of her speech, she gave a broad smile but observed: "Whenever the Kurds get their hopes up it seems that the world unites to crush their hopes."


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May 30, 2008
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