Turkish PM hints at general amnesty, calls for support to Kurdish peace process

Hurriyet – DİYARBAKIR – 17.11.2013 – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Nov. 17 on Turkey’s Kurdish citizens to embrace the government-led peace process, a day after hinting at a possible general amnesty.

“A new process, a new climate, a new spring atmosphere is being experienced not only in Turkey but also in the region,” Erdoğan said at a ceremony yesterday in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır’s Bismil district.

He asked for Kurdish citizens to support the government’s bid to end the decades-long Kurdish conflict.“Let’s not give any chance to sabotages of the solution process. Let’s stand strong against provocations, preventions and intimidations. Let’s not allow the disturbance of peace,” Erdoğan said.

The prime minister’s call came one day after he hinted at a general amnesty during another speech in Diyarbakır. Speaking at a huge ceremony also attended by Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) who was officially visiting Diyarbakır for the first time, Erdoğan stressed the difficulties in resolving the problem, but expressed his optimism. “We will witness a new Turkey where those in the mountains come down, the prisons empty, and the 76 million [citizens of Turkey] become one,” Erdoğan said, in a veiled reference to a general amnesty demanded by many Kurdish groups, including the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). “In Diyarbakır, the city of brotherhood, we have been brothers for time immemorial. We are not just fellow travelers, we also share the same faith,” Erdoğan said. In his Diyarbakır speech, Erdoğan also pronounced the word “Kurdistan” publicly for the first time, greeting the people “of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.”

‘Single nation without discrimination’

In Bismil on Nov. 17, he emphasized the importance of a “single nation,” while also noting that no one should be discriminated against.

“We, by the will of God and the support of the people, will bring peace and prosperity to the whole of Turkey without making any discrimination. That’s why we say ‘single nation.’ The single nation covers Turks, Kurds, Laz, Georgians, Bosnians and the 76 million people living in this country,” Erdoğan said.

“Nobody is discriminated against in the new Turkey due to their language, sect or ethnical identity.

Turkey equally adopts all its colors, elements and identities. Everybody in Turkey is treated as a first class citizen,” he added. The prime minister’s visit to Diyarbakır and its districts over the weekend was expected to revive the stalled Kurdish peace process and deal with the latest developments in northern Syria, where the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) has announced the establishment of a constituent assembly as a “first step” toward an autonomous administration. Both Ankara and KRG capital Arbil have criticized the stance of the Syrian Kurdish organization, which is ideologically close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). On Nov. 16, Erdoğan also made his first visit in 11 years to Mayor Osman Baydemir at the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality. Prominent politicians such as independent Diyarbakır deputy Leyla Zana, independent Mardin deputy Ahmet Türk and BDP lawmakers Sırrı Sakık and Altan Tan also participated in the meeting.   Deputy Prime Ministers Bülent Arınç, Beşir Atalay and Bekir Bozdağ joined Erdoğan during the visit. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was also in Diyarbakır after postponing a visit to Washington that was due to start Nov. 16.