Turkey PM announces reforms key to Kurdish peace process

Turkey PM announces reforms key to Kurdish peace process
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media in Ankara September 30, 2013. Turkey will end a ban that bars women from wearing the Islamic-style headscarf in state institutions, part of the government's long-awaited package of proposed human-rights reforms, Erdogan said on Monday in a major policy speech. The new rules will not apply to the judiciary or the military. Muslim but secular Turkey has long had tough restrictions on the garb worn by women working in state offices. Erdogan also announced plans to return monastery property belonging to Syriac Christians that was seized by the state.

ANKARA - Turkey's prime minister on Monday announced democratic reforms seen as key to the stalled peace process with the country's Kurdish minority.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said rules preventing pro-Kurdish and other smaller parties from entering parliament would be changed, while Kurdish-language education would be permitted in private schools.

A ban on women wearing headscarves in public institutions will also be lifted, he said.

"This is a historic moment, an important stage," Erogan said at a press conference.

Kurdish names can be restored to towns in Turkey and a ban on Kurdish letters will be lifted, he said.

The reforms are designed to address the grievances of Turkey's minority groups, in particular the Kurds, after a peace process with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) stalled.

In March the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan declared a historic ceasefire after months of clandestine negotiations with the Turkish secret service.

In return for withdrawing its fighters, the PKK demanded amendments to the penal code and electoral laws as well as the right to education in the Kurdish language and a degree of regional autonomy.

The move raised hopes of an end to a nearly three-decade Kurdish insurgency in Turkey's southeast that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

But earlier this month the rebels announced they were suspending withdrawal of their fighters, accusing Ankara of failing to deliver the promised reforms.

Erdogan indicated Monday a 10 per cent threshold required to secure seats in Turkey's parliament will be scrapped, saying it was not introduced by his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Private schools will offer education in the Kurdish language, which has long been banned, Erdogan said.

The PKK is classified as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and many other countries.

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