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Erdogan rejects peace with PKK unless it disarms

March 24, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Turkeys’ president insisted on Monday that the government will not take any extra steps towards peace with the Kurds until the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) lays down its weapons. “Peace is not possible at gunpoint,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told local officials. “We cannot achieve progress in an environment in which promises are constantly reneged on unless concrete decisions have been taken.”

On Saturday, in a message commemorating the occasion of the Kurdish New Year festival (Nowruz), the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, called on his movement to hold a conference to put an end to the insurgency against the Turkish authorities. Around 40,000 people have been killed in the uprising since 1984. Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence in Turkey, issued a similar appeal last month.

In recent months, Erdogan has moved towards peace with the Kurds in the hope of gaining the Kurdish vote in June’s legislative elections. He need a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives in order to amend the Turkish Constitution to enhance his powers as head of state. However, as the date of the poll gets closer he has had to adopt a more hard-line approach so as not to lose votes from nationalists.

The president has publicly criticised the way that the Kurdish issue has been handled, revealing serious tensions within the executive. On Sunday, a government spokesman responded to Erdogan drily. “We love our president,” said Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc. “We know his strength and value the services he has provided, but we do not forget that there is a government in this country.”

Erdogan replied that he has a “right and duty” to express his opinion. “I am the head of the state,” he added, “and each one should be in his place.”