BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkish parliament may re-open to pass rights legislation

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) walks flanked by Chief of Staff General Ilker Basbug (L) at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, in Ankara on August 1, 2010. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN

ISTANBUL: Turkey's parliament may reconvene early from its summer recess to pass laws to expand Kurdish rights, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, a move crucial to resolving a 28-year conflict.

Kurds want legislative reforms to address long-standing grievances, what they see as the next step in a peace process after the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) declared a ceasefire and began withdrawing fighters to bases outside Turkey earlier this year.

"Our friends are now completing their work on the articles, and hopefully we will announce our democratisation package aimed at the new period. It's possible parliament will reopen early," Erdogan told reporters in comments broadcast by CNN Turk.

Kurdish-language education, changes to anti-terror laws, reducing the electoral threshold from 10 percent and expanding local governance are among the reforms, Selahattin Demirtas, head of parliament's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), said late last month.

The BDP wants to see reforms passed by mid-October, he said.

Parliament, dominated by Erdogan's AK Party, adjourned for summer recess last month. It is scheduled to start on Oct. 1.

Erdogan's government has been in talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK's jailed leader, since late 2012 in what is seen by many in Turkey as the best chance yet at ending a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, since 1984.

The PKK, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union list as a terrorist organisation, took up arms in a campaign to carve out an independent homeland in the mainly Kurdish southeast but has scaled back its demands to greater cultural rights and political autonomy for Turkey's Kurds.

Kurds make up about 20 percent of Turkey's population of 76 million people. After the modern Turkish Republic was formed in 1923, Kurds were not recognised as a distinct ethnicity and were barred from using their language in the public realm.

 

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