EU enlargement chief urges Turkey to promote cultural rights, reduce poverty of Kurds

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution March 3, 2008 EU enlargement chief urges Turkey to promote cultural rights, reduce poverty of Kurds 

The Associated Press 

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union's enlargement commissioner urged Turkey's government Monday to promote cultural rights and reduce poverty among the country's Kurdish minority.

Olli Rehn, speaking at a conference on Turkey said important reforms, including increasing the rights of Kurds, are needed for Turkey to advance its effort to join the EU.

"Resolute government action is urgently needed to pursue change," Rehn said.

Rehn has made improving the rights and economic well-being of Turkey's large Kurdish minority a priority in the nation's membership negotiations this year.

Ankara needs to improve the access of its Kurdish population to radio and television broadcasting "and to support the teaching of languages other than Turkish," Rehn said.

He said Turkish officials told him the government plans to devote one public TV channel to broadcasts in Kurdish. Rehn said a planned constitutional reform could improve rights for Kurds and other minority religious groups that are not currently treated fairly under Turkish law.

The EU has long urged Turkey to accelerate programs to undermine the PKK rebel group, which is fighting for autonomy, through nonmilitary means, by granting Kurds more rights and promoting economic development in the impoverished southeast, where Kurds constitute a majority.

Rehn said there was a need for Turkey to address economic disparities within the Kurdish community. He said the Turkish government needed to facilitate the return of internally displaced Kurds who have fled their homes in recent years, and to compensate those who have suffered because of fighting against rebel groups there.

He said the Turkish government needed to make sure that future military incursions against rebel Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq were not disproportionate.

"Turkey should limit military actions to those absolutely necessary for achieving its purpose, protecting the Turkish population from terrorism," Rehn said.

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