Turk PM seeks halt return of Kurd refugees-NTV
Turkey wants to halt the return of Kurdish refugees after a group of returning separatist militants received a festive welcome last week, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Saturday, Reuters reported.
Rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) surrendered last week after returning from neighbouring Iraq to support Erdogan's reform process, which includes plans to grant more political and cultural rights to minority Kurds.
Scenes of thousands of Kurds waving PKK flags and chanting slogans in favour of its leader Abdullah Ocalan in the majority Kurdish southeastern cities irked the government and angered nationalist Turks.
"Unwanted things happened despite the warnings given to the (pro-Kurdish) Democratic Society Party. A crisis of confidence has emerged and return of (a Kurdish refugee) group from Germany has been postponed," broadcaster NTV quoted Erdogan as telling reporters.
A group of Kurdish refugees had been expected to return to Istanbul from Germany on Oct 28.
"Let's have a break and we will assess the process later," the prime minister said.
Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party has launched an initiative that is expected to give greater freedom to the 12 million-strong Kurdish minority in Turkey's southeast.
The reforms are important for advancing Turkey's application for membership of the European Union, and responds to demands that Ankara meet the bloc's human rights criteria.
The PKK, based in northern Iraq, took up arms in 1984 to carve out an ethnic homeland in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.
The conflict has severely hampered economic development in the region, which lags far behind relatively prosperous western Turkey.