Erdogan guarantees minorities rights

fazaeli-fatemeh200908161120490781.JPGTurkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan promises reform to religious minorities
Turkey’s premier has promised democratic reforms aimed at protecting the rights of minorities, a key stumbling block in its European Union (EU) membership bid.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the pledge in a rare meeting on August 15, with Turkey’s religious minority leaders of the small Armenian, Jewish, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Greek Orthodox communities near Istanbul.

He reiterated his opposition to ethnic nationalism and called for equal respect for all faiths.

“It is now for us essential to embrace all 71.5 million of this nation’s people in respect and love,” Reuters quoted the Turkish leader as saying.

The meeting coincided with the government’s move to address decades-old tensions with the country’s twelve million Kurds.

Earlier on August 14, Erdogan also pledged to begin implementing fresh reforms aimed at expanding Kurdish freedoms and eroding popular support for the rebels.

However his government faces a hostile opposition which argues that broader Kurdish freedoms will threaten Turkey’s unity.

“Some people say it will not be possible for us to take these steps. But we have made a decision… We must overcome this problem,” Erdogan stressed in defiance to opposition groups.

Eager to boost its EU bid, Turkey in recent years has granted the Kurds a series of cultural freedoms, including the inauguration of a Kurdish-language public television channel in January.