Middle East

Turkey says new talks with Kurd rebels possible

Turkey's Prime Minister and leader of Justice and Development Party (AKP) Tayyip Erdogan (C), accompanied by Numan Kurtulmus, head of the former Islamist-rooted HAS Party (L), pose with the new members of his party during a party meeting in Istanbul September 22, 2012. The party's September 30, 2012 congress is unlikely to offer any sign Prime Minister Erdogan, viewed by many Turks as their strongest leader since Ataturk, is loosening his grip on a heavily-centralised party or on the country as

ANKARA: Turkey said it could hold a fresh round of talks with Kurdish rebels but accused France and Germany Thursday of obstructing its efforts to solve the nearly three-decade-old unrest.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has stepped up its activities against the Turkish government in recent months but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not rule out fresh negotiations.

"We take such steps when deemed necessary," he told the private NTV television network when asked if his AKP government was favourable to dialogue with the Kurdish rebels.

Erdogan suggested that the talks could take place in Imrali -- an island off Istanbul where PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is imprisoned, or in Oslo which hosted negotiations between 2009 and 2011.

Turkish intelligence officials last met with leaders of the PKK in 2011 but the dialogue broke off without any concrete result.

"The national intelligence organisation is our most important instrument here," said Erdogan.

He stressed that the timing was also important for a new round of talks, saying: "We'll take this step when the right time comes."

Turkey has witnessed a sharp escalation of Kurdish rebel attacks targeting its security forces in the southeast in recent months, triggering fully-fledged military operations in the region.

Erdogan's comments follow his interview with Kanal 7 television on Wednesday when he said: "If talks enable us to resolve something, let's do it."

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, immediately denounced Erdogan's openness to new dialogue as "unpardonable folly".

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said in a recent interview with reporters that a mutual ceasefire would lead to "a fertile ground for discussion."

On Thursday, Erdogan also accused Western countries and particularly France and Germany of obstructing Ankara's fight against the PKK.

"The West doesn't want us to solve this (PKK) problem," he said.

"Let me say it openly. Germany doesn't want it, France doesn't want it and they are not helping us on this issue. On the contrary, they are letting the terrorist chiefs freely circulate in their countries."

The PKK, which took up arms in the southeast in 1984 sparking a conflict that claimed about 45,000 lives, is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, as well as the European Union and the United States.

Erdogan also lashed out at Scandinavian countries for harbouring the PKK.

"On the one hand, you will stand up at the EU and label the PKK as a terrorist organisation and then you will allow their representatives to freely circulate in your countries," said Erdogan.

"They are under your protection and you are condoning their activities," he said.

Erdogan was referring to PKK financial assets in Europe and the drug trade on which the group is believed to rely on to fund its rebellion.

The prime minister said the AKP government has taken the most couregous steps to solve the PKK problem and tied the recent surge in the Kurdish rebel attacks to armament of the organisation.

"Not tactically but on the point of becoming an armed power, the (PKK) has not seized such an opportunity in any period in the past."

"We will minimise the operations if the PKK lays down arms," Erdogan said.

Ankara has also launched a wider political crackdown against the militants and their supporters and hundreds of people have been arrested or put on trial for alleged links to the rebels.





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