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7th International Conference on EU, Turkey and the Kurds - The road to peace, facing the challenge

Date

18 Nov 2010

Sections

EU Priorities 2020
Global Europe

Speaking at the opening session of the 7th international conference on "The EU, Turkey and the Kurds - The road to peace, facing the challenge," German GUE/NGL MEP Jürgen Klute welcomed participants on behalf of GUE/NGL but also on behalf of the European Parliament's Kurdish Friendship Group set up earlier this year, which includes members from all the Parliament's political groups. "Freedom and justice for the Kurdish people is close to our hearts right across the political spectrum in this Parliament," MEP Klute told the conference.

He said the conference was an opportunity to discuss recent developments such as the publication of the Commission's report on Turkey's progress towards accession and to "verify, underscore or contradict the contents of that report". He welcomed the recent constitutional referendum in Turkey as an "exciting process" but regretted that expectations and demands from the Kurdish side were not taken into consideration. But, he added, the fact that there was a 70% turnout for the referendum shows that there is a "strong wish by Turkish society for a change in the direction of democracy. This should be used as a building block by the Turkish authorities to take this process forward."

The event was introduced by Kariane Westrheim, Chair of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), which co-hosted the conference, who said that opportunities still existed for Turkey to transform into a democracy "but only if all parties are involved". She evoked the plight of imprisoned Kurdish political representatives and some 3000 children in detention saying that "these and other situations cry out for justice". She urged Turkey for more initiative and more political will to resolve these problems once and for all.

The conference heard from Archbishop Desmond Tutu via a video message during which he expressed his continued support for the EUTCC "until we get settlement of the Kurdish issue in Turkey and until all the stumbling blocks to Turkey's EU accession are removed". Written messages were read from Iranian Nobel peace prizewinner, Dr Shirin Ebadi, who expressed her support for "the peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Turkey" and called on the Turkish government to facilitate EU accession "by reforming its policies and by the elimination of all kinds of discrimination against the Kurdish people" and other ethnic minorities. Other messages were heard from Osman Baydemir, a Kurdish politician, lawyer and human rights activist and current mayor of Diyarbakir,

Turkish writer and poet Vedat Türkali and Kamal Artin, Chair of the Kurdish National Congress of North America.

Addressing the conference, Sakharov Prizewinner, Leyla Zana, welcomed the recent "emergence of a peaceful and democratic will among all parties in the Kurds' search for the rights, for justice and for freedom." She spoke of the ceasefire announced by the PKK, saying that with the "suspension of hostile action, the political entity in power must engage in a mobilisation of education and information in which all institutional domains are included, where co-existence will be internalised and where the desire to find a solution will be shared with the people".

Concluding the introductory session, MEP Jürgen Klute said that the fact that the PKK ceasefire had been extended until the elections next year was a "clear signal for a peaceful and just solution. It's high time that the Turkish government responds with their own ceasefire and with the political will to reach a peaceful solution to provide justice, human rights and human dignity for all."
 

GUE/NGL PRESS CONTACTS:
Gianfranco Battistini + 32 475 64 66 28
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
David Lundy + 32 485 50 58 12
www.guengl.eu
Gauche Unitaire Européenne/Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group

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