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Kurdish peace process derails

Kurdish peace process derails
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Ankara (AFP): Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reaffirmed his commitment to a full reconciliation with Turkey's estimated 15 million...

Ankara (AFP): Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reaffirmed his commitment to a full reconciliation with Turkey's estimated 15 million Kurds, but events of recent weeks suggest the peace process may already be unravelling. Since the streets of Istanbul erupted on May 31, swiftly followed by other Turkish cities, the process that began with the ceasefire declared by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on March 21 has faded into the background. Erdogan has failed to quell discontent over his increasingly autocratic style among Turks, and the country's Kurds are also growing tired of vague promises and a failure to implement demands for greater recognition.

Promises were made to strengthen "individual liberties", but the government has so far failed to respond to Kurds' demands for recognition in the constitution and to allow the Kurdish language to be taught in state schools. Mustafa Sentop, president of the cross-party constitution conciliation commission, said just a third of the proposals could be accepted by his Justice and Development party (AKP), of which Erdogan is the leader. Abdullah Ocalan, PKK leader currently in jail, declared a historic ceasefire in March after months of clandestine negotiations with the Turkish secret service with an ultimate goal of disarming the rebel fighters.

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Ocalan's PKK, labelled as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies, agreed to withdraw its estimated 2,000 fighters from Turkey to their bases in northern Iraq. Muammer Guler, Erdogan's interior minister, said there would be no progress until all PKK fighters were gone. "The conditions required to begin the second phase of negotiations have not been met," he said, adding he believed PKK militants were still in Turkey despite the ceasefire.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has failed to quell discontent over his increasingly autocratic style among Turks, and the country's Kurds are also growing tired of vague promises and a failure to implement demands for greater recognition

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