After Turkish ban on party, US urges support for political freedom

Türkiye Materials 12 December 2009 07:54 (UTC +04:00)

The United States Friday urged Turkey to "advance political freedoms" for all of its citizens after Turkey's Constitutional Court banned the country's largest Kurdish political party, dpa reported.

The court ruled earlier in the day that the Democratic Society Party (DTP) supported terrorism.

The US State Department said it would not comment on the specifics of the ruling, as it was an internal matter for Turkey.

"However, we believe that Turkey's democratic system should continue to advance political freedoms for all its citizens," the state department spokesman said in a statement.

The US urged "extreme caution" in limiting freedoms, and encouraged the Turkish government "to continue its efforts to ensure that all Turkish citizens fully exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship."

The ruling means the party is immediately dissolved, with its 37 parliamentarians facing a five-year ban on political activity - including party chief Ahmet Turk.

The decision was seen as a major blow to Turkish-Kurdish relations, which had recently thawed after decades of bloodshed and near civil-war in the east of the country.

Turkish politicians have repeatedly claimed the DTP is the political wing of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had recently promised a "democratic opening" towards the Kurdish minority, who number around 15 million - or 20 per cent of the population.

The Kurds have long demanded more autonomy, especially greater respect for their own language.

The conflict, mainly between the outlawed PKK and the Turkish army, has left at least 35,000 people dead.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama met with Erdogan in Washington, praising his overtures to Turkey's minority Kurdish community.