Turkey to present Kurdish reform bill ahead of elections

Reforms would grant 'legal guarantees'

ANKARA - Turkey's government is due to present a reform bill to parliament ahead of the August presidential elections in a bid to revive the stalled peace process with Kurdish rebels, a minister said in remarks broadcast on Wednesday.
The proposed legislation appears to be a new bid by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who is himself widely expected to stand in the polls -- to woo the votes of the Kurdish minority.
"We have finalised the work and presented it for the signature of our ministers," Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said in comments broadcast by Turkish television.
"I gave a presentation at the last cabinet meeting. The decision was made and we will present the draft to the parliament within one or two days," he said.
Atalay would not comment on the content of the reform bill but local media reported that the seven-article package of reforms would grant "legal guarantees" to state officials involved in the peace process with Kurdish rebels.
The reforms plan to protect actors of the peace process including politicians, bureaucrats and military from any prosecution in the future by defining their mission, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
The bill will be voted on by June 28 when parliament is scheduled to go into summer recess, it added. Erdogan's ruling party has a comfortable majority in the 550-seat parliament.
Erdogan is expected to run for president in the country's first direct presidential election in August. His party said Tuesday it will end months of speculation by announcing its candidate on July 1.
Analysts say Erdogan is counting on support from the Kurdish minority -- who make up one fifth of the country's population -- to get elected, possibly with an outright victory in the first round.
The premier launched peace talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which declared a historic ceasefire in March last year.
But the process came to a standstill after militants announced in September they were suspending their retreat from Turkish soil, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promised reforms.
The PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, launched an insurgency seeking self-rule in the southeast in 1984 that has claimed about 45,000 lives.