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Pro-Kurdish party urges Ankara to 'take step' for peace

The party is calling on Ankara to "do its part" for a democratic solution to the bloody conflict and to "stay away from any actions" which could undermine the peace process

AFP , Sunday 30 Jun 2013
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A pro-Kurdish party said it will launch on Sunday rallies in several cities to press the Turkish government to "do its part" to settle the nearly three-decade old conflict in southeast Turkey.

"Our party is calling on our people as well as all oppressed and ignored segments of society to say 'Government, take a step' in order to step up the struggle for democracy," the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said in a statement.

The party is calling on Ankara to "do its part" for a democratic solution to the bloody conflict and to "stay away from any actions" which could undermine the peace process.

The BDP said one of its main demands was to ensure freedom for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been serving a life prison term on a remote island off Istanbul since his 1999 capture.

The PKK first took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has cost some 45,000 lives.

The BDP's other demands included release of Kurdish prisoners and political activists, the lifting of restrictions on education in the Kurdish language and reducing the 10-percent election threshold required to secure seats in the 550-seat parliament.

The BDP-led campaign comes after Ocalan said Tuesday that he has sent Ankara a set of proposals for the next phase in peace efforts to follow the withdrawal of rebel fighters from Turkish soil.

The PKK leader declared a ceasefire in March as part of renewed efforts to settle the Kurdish conflict after months of clandestine negotiations with the Turkish secret service with an ultimate goal of disarming the rebel fighters.

As part of the truce, Ocalan's PKK, labelled as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies, agreed to withdraw its 2,000 estimated fighters from Turkey to their bases in northern Iraq, which should be completed before winter.

Over the years, the PKK has scaled back its original demand for outright secession to a call for autonomy and cultural and language rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority.

Ocalan did not say what his proposals contained, only that "the debates for the second stage have started from now. I wish everyone in favour of democracy, solution and peace contributes to the debates."

In return for peace, the PKK has demanded wider constitutional rights for Turkey's Kurds, who make up around 20 percent of the country's 75-million population and live mostly in the southeast.

The BDP is due to hold rallies Sunday in Diyarbakir and Gaziantep cities in the southeast, as well as in Adana and Mersin in the south.

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