Leading Kurds Warn Fighting Could Harm Turkey’s EU Prospects

ANKARA (AFP)–Leading Kurdish activist Leyla Zana and three fellow politicians warned Wednesday that continued clashes between Kurdish rebels and the army could derail Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

"Society is fed up with violence…It is time to say ‘enough is enough’ to suffering–tears–and mourning," the four former parliament members said in a statement.

Zana and her colleagues–Hatip Dicle–Selim Sadak–and Orhan Dogan–have appealed to Kurdish militants to lay down their arms since they were released in June after a decade in jail–pending a review of their 1995 sentences for aiding the armed rebellion against Ankara.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)–now known as KONGRA-GEL–called off a five-year unilateral ceasefire on June 1–raising tensions in the mainly Kurdish southeast which had been mostly calm during the truce period.

Since then–the group has been blamed for a series of deadly attacks in the region as well as the bombing of two hotels in Istanbul last month–which left two dead and 11 injured.

EU leaders will assess Turkey’s progress towards greater democracy in December before deciding whether to set a date to open membership talks.

"Though it is a very low possibility–if a date for accession negotiations is not given because of the clashes–the moral responsibility of this will be enormous," the four activists said. "That is why it is very important that arms are silenced."

They argued that it would be easier to resolve the Kurdish question if Turkey came closer to the EU.

"The attitudes and contributions of the EU member states will be as important as the attitudes of Kurds and Turks in the acceleration of the process," they said.

Turkey has undertaken several major reforms to broaden the cultural freedoms of its Kurdish minority as part of its campaign for EU membership.

Some 37,000 people have been killed in fighting between the PKK and the army since 1984 when the rebels took up arms for self-rule in the southeast.

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