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Turkey

Turkish newspaper reports roadmap for peace with Kurds

The Turkish government and Kurdish separatists have reportedly agreed on a plan to end a conflict that has killed over 40,000 people in over thirty years. But there is controversy brewing over possible concessions.

The daily newspaper "Radikal" quoted senior Turkish intelligence officials following their meetings with with imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The paper claimed to have information on a four-stage plan for the disarmament of Kurdish separatist fighters in exchange for increased minority rights. These would include constitutional reforms removing obstacles to Kurdish language education in Turkey, introducing an ethnically neutral definition of Turkish citizenship and the strengthening of regional administrations.

The planned "roadmap" would also involve the release from custody of thousands of people accused of links with the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, The European Union and the United States.

There was no official confirmation of any agreement and Radikal did not name its sources.

The PKK, which was founded by Ocalan, began its armed separatist struggle in 1984. The fighting has been concentrated mainly on Turkey's southeastern region bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria but bomb attacks have also been staged in cities across Turkey.

There had already been reports last week of talks between Turkish government officials and Ocalan, who has been in prison since was arrested in Kenya by Turkish special forces in 1999 and brought to Turkey.

"The aim is to disarm the PKK," Yalcin Akdogan, an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish broadcaster NTV last Monday, adding that this goal could not be achieved by military means alone.

The opposition CHP party in Ankara expressed support for peace talks, but the leader of the nationalist MHP was critical.

"Prime Minister Erdogan has crossed a threshold and dropped the government's anchor in the bloody port of separatist terror," the party's leader, Devlet Bahceli, said.

Prime Minister Erdogan, himself a conservative, has played down the concessions which Turkey would make to end the conflict. Ahead of presidential elections in 2014 he is under pressure to stem the violence, which is Turkey's main domestic security concern.

Violence meanwhile continued in the southeast of the country this week. Fourteen PKK fighters and a Turkish soldier were reportedly killed overnight on the border with Iraq on Wednesday.

Last year saw a rise in violence related to the Kurdish conflict after a previous round of secret peace talks initiated in 2009 with the rebel leadership ended in failure. Turkish security forces claim to have killed 1,450 Kurdish fighters in 2012.

rg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)