BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkish parliament opens as clashes with Kurdish rebels flare

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (front), Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (back - C) and ministers, stand before a debate marking the reconvene of the parliament after a summer recess in Ankara on October 1, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)

ANKARA: The Turkish parliament began a new legislative session Monday in a climate dominated by tough discussions on a new and more democratic constitution and renewed clashes between Kurdish rebels and security forces.

During his traditional speech opening the national assembly's session President Abdullah Gul called on members of the parliament not to "fall into the trap of terrorism", arising from the recent spike in attacks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the southeast of the country, and abandon democratic progress in Turkey.

"We must continue on the path of democratic reforms and human rights," he said, urging the parliamentarians to complete by next summer drawing up a new basic law guaranteeing further rights for the Kurdish community, which accounts for 15 million of Turkey's 75 million inhabitants, and for the population in general.

"We have to prepare a new contract of citizenship" in the framework of the new text, which is to replace the constitution drawn up after the 1980 military coup, he said.

Work by the parliament on the new constitution has proceeded very slowly because of serious disagreements.

There has been a marked increase in violence in the Kurdish conflict in the southeast of the country, with an upsurge in armed attacks by the PKK, military reprisals and repression by the authorities against the Kurdish political movement.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that 144 members of the security forces and 239 Kurdish rebels, who have been fighting the central government since 1984, had been killed since the beginning of the year.

 

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