ANKARA–Jan 2 (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz pledged in commen’s published on Friday not to ignore human rights–a major stumbling block in the path of Turkey’s stalled progress towards European Union membership.
“Democracy and human rights in Turkey cannot be abandoned,” he wrote in a New Year’s message printed in the Milliyet daily.
Improvement in human rights was high on a wish list the EU gave to Turkey in December when it put the country’s application for membership into cold storage.
But Yilmaz said Turkey would address its human rights problems for the sake of its own people–rather than in reaction to foreign pressure.
“It is not foreign policy necessity that lies behind our sensitive approach–it is our belief in democracy–human rights and our citizens’ rights,” he wrote.
Foreign and domestic human rights bodies often charge Turkey with doing little to stop torture and the imprisonment of dissidents. They say a 13-year-old conflict with separatist Kurd rebels in the southeast is the source of many abuses.
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