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In what is being heralded by Turkey as a major breakthrough in its conflict with the Kurdish PKK militia, a group of eight
rebels and 26 Kurdish refugees have crossed over from bases in
Iraq and turned themselves in to Turkish authorities. The symbolic move comes in response to a
government initiative to end a long running conflict that has claimed
Turkish TV channels interrupted their broadcasts to announce the "surrender."
group of 34 men and women smiled as they entered Turkish territory.
They crossed over from the Iraqi Kurdish region, where most of the
several thousand PKK rebels are reportedly based.
militants have been fighting the Turkish state for greater Kurdish
rights since 1984. Thousands of kurds on both sides of the border
assembled in support of the rebels.
A PKK official described it
as a goodwill gesture to the Turkish government in response to its
Democratization Initiative. The initiative aims to bring an end to the
conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK.
A Turkish government advisor, Ibrahim Kalin, says it is an important step.
is a very good sign. It is one first fruits of the democratic
initiative, and we hoping that it this will be followed, to speed up
the process so that we can move ahead other issues also cultural
political as far the democratic initiative is concerned," Kalin said.
government launched its reconciliation initiative earlier this year and
has engaged in wide-ranging talks that have included the country's main
Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party.
Prime Minister Erdogan has said he is considering far-reaching steps to resolve the conflict.
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year, Turkish state TV launched a ground breaking channel in Kurdish, a
language that was once banned by the government. The government has
also reached out to the leadership of the neighboring semi-autonomous
Iraqi Kurdish regional government. Until recently, Iraqi Kurds were
accused by Ankara of working with the PKK.
spokesman for the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party, Safeen Dizayee,
welcomes the surrender, but says the Turkish government must respond
"So far its an
open ended project. There is not a solid idea, or at least publicly
there is no solid project. We hope ideas can develop and can be
formulated into a state policy. If you have something solid something
more tangible which can guarantee an end to this violence, something
that should be welcomed by all parties," Dizayee said.
the government is also facing strong criticism from the powerful
nationalist opposition, which accuses it of betraying the country, as well as those who died fighting the rebels. Analysts say the surrender of the
PKK rebels has given momentum to the government's drive to resolve the
conflict. But they add, the government now faces pressure from the PKK
and much of its Kurdish population to respond by turning its words of
peace into concrete steps.