* Demirtas says greater autonomy still wanted by all Kurds
* Erdogan says peace moves are sincere
* Kurdish party has applied for second visit to PKK leader
By Jonathon Burch and Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA, Jan 9 Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition
party said on Wednesday a new push to find a political solution
to the long Kurdish conflict appeared to be serious but greater
autonomy for the Kurds was still a main demand.
The prospect of an end to three decades of war between the
Turkish army and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) surfaced in
recent weeks after the government acknowledged it was talking to
the insurgents' jailed leader.
Turkish media reports this week said a framework for a peace
plan had been agreed with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. But they
made no reference to an independent Kurdistan or to "democratic
autonomy", a concept previously proposed by Kurdish politicians.
"How this autonomy will be created, what it will consist of,
can be discussed but to say we have given up on autonomy from
the Kurdish standpoint is wrong," said Peace and Democracy Party
(BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas.
"Only the way this will be implemented can change," he told
Reuters in an interview at his parliament office in Ankara.
The conflict in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, a remote
and mountainous region bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria, has
killed 40,000 people since the PKK took up arms in 1984. It has
included bomb attacks in cities around the country.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday the
authorities were taking a two-pronged approach, with the state
intelligence agency talking to Ocalan, imprisoned on an island
in the Marmara Sea since his capture in 1999, and the government
talking to Kurdish politicians.
Previous negotiations with the PKK were secretive and
largely appeared to have run aground but Demirtas said the
latest contacts had so far given grounds for hope.
"I do not see this as a crude and cheap (government) tactic.
This appears to be a more serious effort," he said. "Both sides
now feel there has to be a solution."
Talks with the PKK, which is designated a terrorist group by
Turkey, the United States and the European Union, would have
been unpalatable to Turkish public opinion only a few years ago
but Ankara is under increasing pressure to end the violence.
Speaking during a visit to Niger on Wednesday, Erdogan said
the aim was to rid Turkey of separatist violence and that the
efforts were genuine.
"The steps we took recently show our sincerity. We have said
in the past that the separatist terror organisation should leave
Turkey, put down weapons and leave Turkey," he said.
Erdogan's government has widened cultural and language
rights for Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of Turkey's 75
million people, since taking power 10 years ago. But Kurdish
politicians say the reforms do not go far enough.
The Radikal newspaper said on Tuesday that intelligence
officials had agreed on a four-stage plan to end the conflict,
including the withdrawal of PKK fighters from Turkish territory
before disarmament talks and an eventual laying down of arms.
Demirtas rebuffed a suggestion in some other media reports
that senior PKK commanders based in northern Iraqi Kurdistan,
from where the group has launched attacks in Turkey, would be
sent to live in a European capital as part of a peace plan.
"This is not a formula the PKK could accept. After all, the
PKK is an organisation living in Kurdistan. Why would they lay
down their Kurdistan arms and go to another country," he said.
Demirtas said he and BDP co-leader Gultan Kisanak together
with two other Kurdish politicians had applied to the justice
ministry to visit Ocalan but had not yet received a response.
Two BDP lawmakers paid a rare visit to Ocalan last week but
the militant leader would only announce his own roadmap after
having spoken to other Kurdish actors, Demirtas said.
"Ocalan's style is not to say, 'I have taken this decision
on my own, now implement it'. Therefore, if we go, we will share
our ideas and thoughts," he said.
"After that Ocalan will announce his ultimate roadmap, his