Leading Kurdish activists on Monday called on the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) to start negotiations to solve the Kurdish issue after the weekend clashes broke a ceasefire announced by the PKK, Xinhua reported.
Some confidence-building steps and statements from the government are needed for a negotiation process, Ahmet Turk, co- chairman of Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella organization for Kurdish parties and activists, told reporters in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakir.
"We aim at dialogue and negotiation with all parties that can contribute to the solution, the state, the government, Abdullah Ocalan (the jailed leader of PKK)," he said.
The PKK, which took up arms in 1984 in order to create an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey, announced a ceasefire from Aug. 13 to Sept. 20 for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan two weeks ago.
However, clashes re-erupted on Saturday when four PKK members and a Turkish soldier were killed in an exchange of fire in the southeastern Hakkari province.
Ahmet Turk urged the government to end military operations against the PKK which is listed as a terrorist organization by the government, and let Ocalan play a role on the negotiation table.
"A new democratic constitution, the release of unfairly arrested Kurdish politicians, the lowering of the election threshold and the annulment of anti-terrorist law" should be guarantied by the government to enable the negotiations, he told a press conference after a two-day DTK assembly.
Such steps should be put on the government agenda after the Sept. 12 referendum on a constitutional reform amendment package, he said.
The newly-announced ceasefire by PKK will expire about a week after the referendum over the government-backed constitutional reform plan, which has been criticized by opposition parties as an attempt by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to control the judiciary and other state institutions.
The timing of the ceasefire has led to allegations that the Turkish government convinced the jailed PKK leader Ocalan to lay down arms to create a favorable environment for the referendum and in return promised to improve the prison conditions for Ocalan and make concessions over the Kurdish issue.
However, the Turkish government has strongly denied such claims, saying the state's stance was not to negotiate with terrorists.
Some 40,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving the PKK for the past two decades. Turkish military forces have launched frequent operations to eradicate PKK militants in the country's southeast and east and conducted air strikes against PKK based in north Iraq.
Turk said a roadmap for lasting peace and the proposal of an autonomous Kurdish region were discussed at the DTK assembly, noting that the DTK would also work to hold a "Kurdish National Conference" in northern Iraq that would gather representatives of Kurds in Syria, Iran, Turkey and Europe to discuss the future of Kurdish people.
Altan Tan, a pro-Kurdish columnist who participated in the Diyarbakir assembly, said the government should resume the " democratic initiative," a reform plan announced in July to expand rights for the Kurdish minority and erode support for the PKK.
The DTK could become a mediator between the government and the PKK if necessary, he was quoted by the local newspaper Hurriyet Daily News as saying.
The "democratic initiative" would include such moves as removing restrictions on Kurdish language use and establishing a national mechanism to prevent torture, according to the government.