Turkish Leader Calls for Dialogue with PKK

ISTANBUL (Reuters)–A party leader in Turkey’s coalition government said on Friday the Northern Ireland peace process could be a model for solving the country’s bloody Kurdish conflict.

Husamettin Cindoruk–leader of the conservative Democratic Turkey Party–suggested a negotiated solution to the 14-year-old conflict between the security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) seeking autonomy for southeast Turkey.

His remarks were sharply at odds with the views of the powerful army and the rest of the government–which regard the PKK as terrorists and firmly reject any dialogue.

"Turkey will get nowhere by masking this problem and delaying a solution," Cindoruk told a leading association of Turkish businessmen.

"The talks which have begun now between Britain and Ireland–form a model in line with the new methods which might be sought," he said.

After 3,600 deaths in a 30-year conflict involving armed groups supporting and opposing British rule over the province–Northern Ireland is trying to implement a peace accord signed in April by leaders of almost all political forces.

Cindoruk–whose party is the junior partner in the three-party ruling coalition–described the Kurdish problem as Turkey’s biggest challenge.

"If you call this terror–you are mistaken. If you call this a guerrilla war–you are mistaken. If you honestly state the reason for the rebellion or protest–you won’t go wrong. In that region there is a Kurdish problem," he said.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan last month announced a unilateral cease-fire–which went into effect on September 1–and called for talks on rebel deman’s for Kurdish self rule. Nearly 29,000 people have died in the conflict in the past 14 years.

Two previous unilateral cease-fires declared in 1993 and 1995 did little to stop violence.

The Islamic opposition Virtue Party recently made similar commen’s on the Kurdish issue in speeches at the unofficial start of campaigning for general elections next year.

State Minister Hikmet Sami Turk said on Friday he would propose to the cabinet the establishment of a compensation fund for Kurds who have suffered losses during the conflict between the military and the PKK–Anatolian news agency reported.

"A special fund will be established to compensate for the damages inflicted on our citizens during the combat against terrorism," Turk–responsible for human rights issues–told reporters after a meeting with regional governors in the southeast.

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