News / Europe

Kurdish Rebels Disappointed by Turkish Reforms

FILE - Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are seen in Turkey near the border with Iraq, May 2013.
FILE - Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are seen in Turkey near the border with Iraq, May 2013.
Kurdish militants are considering whether to maintain their cease-fire after saying Turkish political reforms aimed at bolstering democracy had failed to address their grievances.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan last week pledged to expand some Kurdish rights in a package seen as part of a fragile peace process with the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which declared a ceasefire in March.

“The package disappointed democratic forces, especially the Kurds. It is clear that the package did not meet Kurdish demands,” said a statement on Thursday from the PKK leadership on the Firat News website, which is close to the militants.

“How or whether we maintain the cease-fire and which path and method we opt for depends on the attitude of the government and the Turkish state in the coming days,” the statement said.

Waiting for Ocalan's cue

The PKK is expected to take its cue from jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, who negotiated the ceasefire, ordered his armed followers to withdraw from Turkey, and is expected to make a statement on Oct. 15.

His brother told reporters this week Ocalan would make the statement, after visiting the militant leader on Imrali, the island prison where he has been held since 1999.

Erdogan has accused the PKK of failing to withdraw its forces from Turkish territory as promised, and that the reform package was not a component of the peace talks but aimed more broadly at improving Turkish democracy.

The reforms include allowing for privately funded Kurdish-language education and proposals to change a vote threshold that kept Kurdish parties out of parliament in the past.

But they stopped short of the constitutional guarantees for Kurdish identity and culture, greater autonomy and native-language education that the PKK statement said were “the Kurdish people's inalienable demands”.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union, has waged a 29-year campaign for Kurdish autonomy that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, mostly Kurdish.

The effort to negotiate peace with Ocalan is seen as Turkey's best chance at ending the conflict that has blighted its human rights record, held back its European Union candidacy and undermined economic growth.

On Thursday, parliament renewed for a sixth time a mandate allowing the Turkish armed forces to intervene into neighboring Iraq to attack the PKK, which keeps bases in a remote mountainous area bordering Turkey.

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