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Government talks with Kurdish leader 'right step': Party

Peace and Democracy Kurdish Party hailed the Turkish government-led talks with jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan as a 'right step' but called for a halt to detentions and military operations against rebels

AFP , Tuesday 8 Jan 2013
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Turkey's pro-Kurd party on Tuesday hailed government-led talks with jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan as a "right step" but called for a halt to detentions and military operations against rebels before full-fledged negotiations can begin.

"It is a right step. It is a rational and reasonable step that was taken in such a critical process," Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), told his party lawmakers in parliament.

"But we cannot talk of a full-blown negotiation process at this stage; we are not there yet," Demirtas said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed late last month that Turkey's intelligence services had talks with Ocalan, which an aide said concerned disarming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The aide, Yalcin Akdogan, said Ocalan remains "the main actor" in efforts to resolve the three-decade-old Kurdish conflict, which has claimed some 45,000 lives.

Demirtas demanded the release of Ocalan, the imprisoned PKK leader, or the easing of his detention conditions.

"But if military operations and detention (of Kurdish activists) continue ... there is no point in pursuing this process," Demirtas said, adding that all parties to the conflict be included, including the political wing of the PKK.

Demirtas's remarks came after two prominent Kurdish politicians visited Ocalan in prison on the island of Imrali south of Istanbul, the first such visit since his incarceration in 1999.

Details of the closed-door meeting were not made public, but the government's green light for the visit was perceived as a sign that negotiations were in motion to end the conflict.

After more than a decade behind bars, Ocalan is still a respected figure for a majority of Turkey's Kurds, although his influence among PKK hawks is believed to have diminished.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union, took up arms in the Kurdish-majority southeast in 1984 in a quest for autonomy there.

Ankara initiated clandestine peace talks with prominent rebel figures in 2009 but they failed.

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