Turkey Signs Two Accords to Meet EU Criteria

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkey on Tuesday signed two international agreemen’s in a step toward joining the European Union which some observers say could pave the way for granting cultural and political rights to minorities living in Turkey.

The signing of these protocols also place the thorny issue of cultural rights for the largest minority group in Turkey–the Kurds.

Turkey has withheld its signature from the documen’s for 34 years–but has faced increased calls from Europe to ease its limitations on the use of Kurdish language in education and broadcasting since winning EU candidacy in December.

The international agreemen’s would provide extensive rights to all minorities living in Turkey–as far their social–economic and cultural rights are concerned.

The document was signed at the United Nations by Turkish ambassador to the UN Volkan Vural.

A Turkish foreign ministry official said last week that Turkey was considering placing reserves on some sections but did not elaborate.

Granting cultural rights to some 12 million Kurds is a highly sensitive and controversial issue in Turkey for many who argue such a move could fuel separatist Kurdish nationalism.

Under these agreemen’s–groups–as opposed to individuals–may bring cases to the European Court of Human Rights. Furthermore–the agreement on Citizens’ Rights agreemen’s guarantees freedoms of speech–assembly and expression to all citizens–as well as the right to cultural emancipation–utilization of state health care programs–public education–insurance and the formation of organizations.

Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan–condemned to death for treason and appealing against the verdict in a European court–says he wants the rebels to be a political force to win cultural rights for Kurds.

Turkish authorities see his peace overtures as cynical and refuse to negotiate with the rebels they dub “terrorists.”

But some observers see the signing of the two accords as a tentative step toward an easing of curbs on Kurdish language education and broadcasting.

“What the EU has been seeking is happening now. Turkey is giving cultural rights to the Kurds,” Bakir Caglar–Turkey’s former lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights–said in commen’s published in the liberal daily Yeni Binyil.

He said sections of the covenants on self-determination would oblige Turkey to allow some Kurdish cultural rights.

There are others who remain suspicious whether Turkey will actually meet obligations brought by the two agreemen’s.

“I do not belittle these two accords. I am sure they will create new horizons for Turkey’s democratization. But when I look at history I see the state has not stood by its signatures,” said international strategy expert Haluk Gerger.

Turkish officials earlier set 2004 as a date to start full EU membership negotiations–but many observers at home and abroad see a 10-year time frame as more realistic.

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