EU declares full support for Turkey's peace initiative
The European Union has declared its full support for the Turkish government's peace initiative to end the three-decade-old Kurdish conflict, which it said will speed up Turkey's negotiations for accession to the EU. Lucinda Creighton, the EU minister from current EU term president Ireland, said the bloc lends full support to peace talks launched by Turkey to end the long-standing Kurdish conflict, which has claimed the lives of thousands of people. Creighton was speaking at a panel for a debate titled "Dialogue for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish question in Turkey" held at the European Parliament on Wednesday. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led efforts in recent months to end the war with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which seeks autonomy for the country's estimated 14 million ethnic Kurds. Emphasizing that the PKK is designated a terrorist group by the EU, Creighton said: "This is a brave initiative. Everyone in Turkey wants peace. No one should let the [peace] process be harmed by provocations." The Irish minister also encouraged Turkey to complete constitutional amendments to ensure fundamental rights and freedoms. Also speaking at the panel, European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule said successful completion of the peace process will accelerate Turkey's negotiations for accession to the EU, calling the initiative "historic." The prominent EU official also said he welcomed changes to a law legalizing the use of one's mother tongue in Turkish courts and called on Turkey to make more legal amendments to speed up reforms related to fundamental human rights. Turkey's ethnic Kurds live mainly in the country's Southeast, an area bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran, which also have Kurdish populations. Erdogan's efforts to end the conflict have included talks between Turkey's intelligence agency and the PKK's jailed leader. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has pledged to expand political freedoms and points to Kurdish language rights, greater civilian control of the military and economic liberalization as milestones in its 10-year tenure in office.