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Spokesman: No plans to restart process to resolve Turkey’s ‘Kurdish problem’

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The Turkish government has no plans to restart a process aimed at bringing a resolution to the country’s so-called “Kurdish problem,” a presidential spokesman said on Friday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

In a written statement spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said, “There is nothing resembling a ‘resolution process’ … on the president’s agenda.”

In early 2013, under then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish government launched an initiative known as the “resolution process” to end a decades-old conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkish authorities conducted direct talks with jailed PKK chief Abdullah Öcalan for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.

Kalin continued: “The president has exerted great efforts during both his prime ministry and presidency for all citizens of the Republic of Turkey to live as individuals with equal rights. He rejected all forms of distinctions based on religion and ethnicity and showed this through his concrete actions. Our Kurdish brothers, just like all individuals, are equal citizens of the Republic of Turkey.”

The Turkish government began a crackdown on the Kurdish political movement, represented by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors.

Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast. There are currently nine HDP deputies behind bars. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.

Kalin added that the determined fight against the terrorist PKK would continue.

More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting in the Southeast between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in March reported on allegations that the human rights violations and abuses in Turkey’s Southeast are massive and serious, calling on the Turkish government for full and unfettered access to be able to directly, independently and objectively assess the human rights situation in the region.

In a 28-page report the OHCHR recommended that Turkey “renew efforts to secure a peaceful end to the situation; and to ensure that every loss of life that occurred in the course of security operations is duly investigated, and that perpetrators of unlawful killings and other human rights violations and abuses are brought to justice.”

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