Turkey has long been allergic to the word “Kurdistan”
Turkish Deputy PM says Erdogan was ‘drawing perspective for future,’ noting that only the judiciary can look into cases involving Kurdish rebels.
Turkey, on Monday, said it was not considering a general amnesty for members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as the government stepped up efforts to restart a stalled peace process.
The issue came to the fore on Saturday when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted in Turkish Kurdistan that Turkish prisons would one day be emptied.
Erdoğan had welcomed the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Massoud Barzani, to Turkey's own Kurdish-dominated city of Diyarbakir at the weekend, in a landmark trip designed to revive the peace process between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish state.
"We will witness a new Turkey where those in the mountains come down, the prisons empty and the 76 million citizens of Turkey become united," Erdoğan said in remarks which some local media saw as a veiled reference to a general amnesty, one of the PKK’s key demands.
But on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc took issue with that interpretation.
"The Prime Minister's statement was very clear," said Arinc after a cabinet meeting on Monday.
"A general amnesty is not on today's agenda," he said.
Arinc also said that Erdoğan was "drawing a perspective for the future" in his speech, referring to US civil rights activist Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream” speech.
He added: "It's not us, the government, that will empty the prisons. There is a matter for the Turkish judiciary."
The PKK, branded a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies, declared a ceasefire in March but progress in the peace process has since stalled.
Kurdish fighters suspended a promised withdrawal from Turkish soil in September, accusing Ankara of failing to fully deliver on promises to give the minority group greater rights, including Kurdish language education in state schools and a degree of regional autonomy.
Thousands of Kurdish fighters remain holed up in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Barzani, who is respected by Turkey's Kurds, voiced support for the peace process on Saturday.
During his address in Barzani's presence, Erdoğan for the first time referred to Iraq's autonomous region in the north as "Kurdistan", a word which has long been taboo in Turkey.
Arinc said it was nothing "extraordinary", adding that Kurdistan was the terminology used in the Iraqi constitution.
Turkey has long been allergic to the word "Kurdistan", preferring to refer to Iraqi Kurdistan as northern Iraq or the Kurdish regional government for fear that use of the word could inspire Turkey's own Kurdish population to seek a homeland.
Arinc did stress, however, that the use of Kurdistan in Turkey was out of the question under the current unitary structure of the state, and under the Turkish constitution.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc