Turkey defiant on concessions to Kurds

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, at the weekend ruled out the possibility of his government making big concessions in talks with the jailed Kurdish separatist leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Speaking at a press conference before departing on a state visit to west Africa, Mr Erdogan moved to dispel rumours of a possible general amnesty for fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers party.

“I want to state very clearly that the possibility of a general amnesty for people involved in terrorist activities is not on the agenda,” he said, denying rumours that such a concession may be written into a new draft of part of the Turkish criminal code in parliament.

Mr Erdoğan dismissed rumours that Mr Ocalan, the PKK leader, might be transferred from his prison on the Turkish island of Imrali to house arrest on the mainland, describing them as “fabricated”.

“This is not on the agenda, and there is no possibility of it happening while we are in power,” he said.

However, Mr Erdogan also confirmed that he was not ruling out the possibility of a resumption of more broad-based talks aimed at negotiating a peace settlement with the PKK along the lines of the “Oslo Process”, a series of talks held between Turkish intelligence officials and senior PKK members between 2005-2009 in the Norwegian capital.

“We are not ruling out having similar talks,” he said, stressing that any such meetings would be conducted on the basis of intelligence officials meeting terrorists, without the involvement of Turkish politicians.

The Oslo Process fell apart 2009 after 34 PKK fighters, who returned to Turkey under a brokered amnesty, were arrested and the PKK recommenced attacks on targets inside Turkey.

Recognised as a terrorist group by the US and the EU, the PKK has been conducting a low-level guerrilla war in eastern Turkey since the mid-1980s.

Originally aimed at establishing a Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, more recently the group has stated its aims as being to force Turkey to concede greater rights to its sizeable Kurdish minority.

Despite this, the PKK has over the past year stepped up its campaign of attacks inside Turkey targeting both military bases and increasingly the oil and gas pipelines which cross eastern Turkey.

Turkish officials have for the past year been blaming both Iran and Syria for helping the PKK launch increased attacks inside Turkey, and analysts caution that the complex situation in the region may make any negotiated settlement difficult to realise.

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