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'Turkey tumult must not affect peace with Kurds'

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Better relations with the semi-autonomous Kurdish government in Iraq offer Ankara a way to pursue its own interests there without the need to rely on...

Better relations with the semi-autonomous Kurdish government in Iraq offer Ankara a way to pursue its own interests there without the need to rely on the government in Baghdad turkyIstanbul: Just when Turkey should be receiving accolades for its recent peace agreement with separatist militants, that progress is being overshadowed by the government's heavy-handed response to protesters. The protests began peacefully in Istanbul over plans to turn a park into a shopping centre. When police moved last week to violently quash the demonstrations, it sparked nationwide unrest over the government's democratic backsliding and fears of creeping Islamisation by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Muslim party. Though Turkey is a mostly Muslim country, it has a secular government. Indeed, the government shows a disturbing autocratic streak. It needs to reassure the public with more democratic progress, not water cannons and tear gas. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc sought on Tuesday to defuse tensions by apologising for the tough police handling of the initial demonstrations. But that did not appease outraged demonstrators who have been on the streets since Friday. As a result, fresh clashes erupted early yesterday as protesters defied a government plea to end days of unrest. At the same time, Erdogan has made significant progress in a problem that has long bedevilled Turkey � the Kurdish separatists � and that progress is good for Turkey and the region. No matter the country, it is always a significant step forward when a government can negotiate peace with a separatist movement after decades of violent clashes. It becomes all the more important when that country is Turkey � a prosperous democracy that shares a border with three deeply troubled nations: Syria, Iran and Iraq. After nearly 30 years of conflict between Turkish forces and militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, Erdogan has negotiated a peace plan with the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The peace process will benefit Turkey not only in relations with its own Kurdish minority, but also with Kurds living in Syria, Iran and Iraq. (Gulfnews)
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