HURRIYET (Turkey), REUTERS
ANKARA - Turkey's Justice Minister said Monday that the government would open negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, giving a second jolt of hope in the past two days to settling a decades-old conflict between Kurds and Ankara.
Reuters reported Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin's statement a day after hundreds of PKK inmates ended a 68-day hunger strike in prisons across Turkey upon the urging of their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan. Ergin said Turkey has held secret discussions with senior PKK representatives in Oslo in recent years.
Over the past three decades, an estimated 40,000 people have been killed in violence between Turkey and the PKK, which is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the end of the hunger strike was a necessary step to move talks forward. “I thank those inmates who took this decision [to end the hunger strikes]. They did the right thing," Arınç was quoted as saying in Istanbul daily Hurriyet.
Gülten Kışanak, deputy co-chair of the pro-Kurdish BDP Peace and Democracy party said the hunger strikes had reached their goal. “A very important message came from (Ocalan). He proved how much he cares about human lives," Kışanak was quoted as saying in Hurriyet. "He contributed to the end of the hunger strikes by calling on inmates before anyone died.”
“The right to defense and education in [one’s] mother tongue is everyone’s right,” said Caucasian Associations Federation Head Vacid Kadıoğlu, who blamed Kurds for politicizing the issue. “First of all, we demand the return of our right to receive education in [our] mother tongue."
PKK members in 2008 (Photo James Gordon)