Turkish PM excludes Kurdish party from talks on new constitution

AFP , Monday 28 Dec 2015

Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Prime Minister and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ahmet Davutoglu delivers a speech during an AKP meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara on December 22, 2015 (AFP)

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday rejected holding talks with Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party over a new constitution because of the "disrespectful" attitude of its leadership.

The premier's blackballing of the Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) from discussions comes as the army wages a relentless campaign against Kurdish militants in the southeast.

"It is not appropriate to accept them (the HDP) as negotiators after their disrespectful and provocative comments," Davutoglu said at a news conference before travelling to Serbia.

Davutoglu will launch negotiations with parties this week on a new charter after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regained its majority in November 1 elections.

Davutoglu on Saturday cancelled a planned meeting with the HDP, accusing its co-chair Selahattin Demirtas of benefiting from the renewed violence and of polarising the country.

Demirtas was accused by the premier of "treason" a high-profile visit to Moscow just a month after Turkey's shooting down of a Russian warplane led to a crisis in ties.

"I can discuss the constitution with anyone, but the unity of Turkey is not a matter of discussion," Davutoglu said.

On Sunday, the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an association of Kurdish political organisations, released a declaration calling for self-rule in the country's southeast.

"The rightful resistance waged by our people against the policies that undermine the Kurdish problem, is essentially a demand and struggle for local self-governance and local democracy," the 14-article declaration said.

Turkish security forces are currently imposing curfews several towns in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey in a bid to root out Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels from urban centres.

The operations mark a new escalation in the over three decade conflict with the PKK after a fragile truce collapsed in July after just two-and-a-half years.

The army said on Saturday nearly 200 PKK militants were killed in the operations since the offensive began in mid-December.

The strongman of Turkish politics for more than a decade, Erdogan has long been pushing for a new constitution to transform his post into a powerful US-style executive presidency.

However the AKP still does not command the two-thirds or three-fifths majority needed to change the constitution without support from other parties or a popular referendum, respectively.

The government accuses the HDP of being the political wing of the PKK, although the party vehemently rejects the label.

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