World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday hailed the planned withdrawal of Kurdish rebel fighters from Turkey as the end of a "dark era" but warned against potential sabotage of a historic peace process.
"Not only the 30-year-old conflict, but also a problem extending back for longer years would end with the solution process to the Kurdish issue," added Erdogan who spoke at a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.
"Turkey today is entering a new phase and a new league," Erdogan said, adding that the government, which had struggled against the Kusridtan Workers’ Party (PKK) organization with a determined manner for the last ten years, was now reaching its target.
Murat Karayilan, one of the heads of PKK organization, recently said that PKK militants were set to begin withdrawing from Turkey on May 8. The withdrawal announcement came after a call by the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan for ceasefire as part of talks with Turkish intelligence officials to end nearly three decades of armed conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
"The door is closing on a dark era. Turkey is changing its ill fortune and is entering a new phase," Erdogan told a business group in comments broadcast live by state television, his first since the withdrawal was announced.
"No one should try to pull this process in a different direction," he added. "We remain vigilant against sabotage, against provocations, but today we are much more hopeful, determined and optimistic."
Some 2,000 PKK members are set to retreat in small groups in a process that will take months and is to be monitored by Turkish intelligence on one side and the Kurdish regional government in Iraq on the other.
The withdrawal is a significant advance in a process offering the best chance in more than a decade of ending a conflict that has blotted Turkey's human rights record and stunted economic growth.
Yet nationalists have slammed the jailhouse negotiations with Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence for treason, arguing that it means surrender to the demands of "terrorists".
Others have asked what the government has promised Ocalan in return for a PKK withdrawal.
Erdogan's government is now expected to tackle some of the political reforms sought by Kurds, including constitutional changes on citizenship, changes to anti-terrorism laws and broader Kurdish cultural and political rights.
Erdogan has ushered in major changes for Turkey's estimated 14 million Kurds, especially in allowing more use of the Kurdish language, which was completely banned until two decades ago.
Last Mod: 27 Nisan 2013, 16:33