Erdogan: "Turkey is now closer to a solution than ever before"
Speaking at a fast-breaking dinner hosted by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in honor of ambassadors of foreign countries, including Marc Pierini, the representative the European Commission (EC), and Ankara foreign media correspondents, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that the nation is going through a very delicate process now with the government's democratic initiative aimed at solving Turkey's so-called Kurdish question or southeastern Anatolia issue through expanding democratic rights and freedoms. Expressing determination to pursue the democratic initiative until it gets results regardless of its cost, Erdogan said, "Turkey is now closer to a solution to the longstanding issue than ever before." Stating that the government has taken large strides towards reducing Turkey's regional development disparities, Erdogan called the democratic initiative a project on national unity, and added that efforts under the project are going well. "We aim to solve the issue, which has been continuing in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country for the last 25 years, through expanding democratic rights and freedoms and the rule of law," he said. Saying that for the last month, Interior Minister Besir Atalay, the coordinator for the initiative, has been speaking with various sectors of society to reach a broad consensus on the democratic measures, Erdogan praised these "sincere" discussions, adding, "Remarkable progress has been made since the beginning of the process." Acknowledging that the initiative faces both opponents and obstacles, Erdogan reiterated his determination to complete the project regardless of its political cost to the AK Party. "In the last two weeks, 11 Turkish soldiers have died fighting terrorists," he said. "Some try to obstruct the democratic initiative through provocative statements and activities, trying to capitalize on the problem continuing. Everyone should act responsibly and with common sense during this process. We're going through a delicate process. We're closer to a solution now than ever. We're determined to complete the process. We aim to end bloodshed and tears. This is above everything." Erdogan also talked about government efforts in recent years to combat what he called crime networks hidden in the state, saying that the fight would continue with unflagging determination to ensure that Turkey has a fully transparent state structure ruled by law with high democratic standards. In related news, speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Cemil Cicek expressed determination to press ahead with the democratic initiative, adding that much work remains for the initiative, which will take time due to the nature of the problem. "We're aware that this issue is a tough one," he said. "We're also aware that obstructionism is making things even harder, and every day we see and experience firsthand the pain and suffering caused by a take-it-slow approach or passing the buck to future governments." He said that they had also discussed a strategic communication plan prepared by the Undersecretariat for European Union Affairs (ABGS) to promote Turkey's EU accession bid both at home and abroad, stressing the importance of engaging both domestic and European audiences for the success of Turkey's bid, dispelling misconceptions and misinterpretations especially in certain EU members countries on it.