European Union upbeat on PKK issue in Turkey

April 18, 2013 at 1:18 PM
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STRASBOURG, France, April 18 (UPI) -- Moves to settle longstanding issues with the Kurdish community in Turkey may improve ties to the European Union, members of the European Parliament said.

The European Parliament passed a resolution Thursday praising recent talks that might bring an end to conflict between the government and members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK.

Parliamentary envoy for Turkey Ria Oomen-Ruijten, a Dutch lawmaker, said a tit-for-tat exchange was needed to help move both sides closer together.

"Turkey needs to step up efforts to guarantee freedom of expression, media freedom and all other fundamental freedoms in line with the values of the EU," she said in a statement. "The EU must do its utmost to support Turkey in the reform process -- renewed efforts for the opening of further negotiation chapters are important."

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan called on armed units to lay down their weapons and leave the country. Withdrawal is expected soon, though pro-Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey said they were concerned about a lack of security guarantees.

EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule said the initiative may bring peace to parts of southern Turkey and represents a "chance to end terrorism" in the country.

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