Erdogan’s ‘wise’ step to help Kurd peace talks

Updated 05 April 2013
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Erdogan’s ‘wise’ step to help Kurd peace talks

ANKARA: Turkey said yesterday it has set up a consultative body of "wise people" to help shape public opinion on the latest peace process with Kurdish rebels.
The initiative, which involves an array of figures including popular actors and singers, follows a cease-fire call last month by jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The group of "well-respected people whose common ground is democracy and freedoms" is due to have its first meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters.
The 63-member group is being asked to inform people across Turkey about the budding peace process aimed at ending the outlawed PKK's 29-year armed campaign for self-rule that has killed some 45,000 people, mostly Kurds.
Among the "wise people" are journalists, academics, business people and rights activists, as well as some popular actors and singers.
Ocalan called on March 21 for PKK fighters to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil in a breakthrough announcement after months of secret negotiations from his isolated jail cell with the Turkish intelligence agency.
Pro-Kurdish lawmakers have repeatedly said a binding parliamentary committee was needed to oversee the fragile process, but Erdogan has rejected the idea.
Previous attempts at ending the insurgency were crippled after splinter groups within the PKK torpedoed efforts or Ankara backtracked because of opposition from nationalist groups.


Palestinians to cut civil servant salaries after Israeli tax freeze

Updated 42 min 5 sec ago
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Palestinians to cut civil servant salaries after Israeli tax freeze

  • Israel's security cabinet on Sunday approved the freezing of $138 million (122 million euros) over the PA's payments to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis
  • Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday he would not accept anything but full payment of the tax transfers owed by Israel

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian finance minister on Thursday announced salary cuts for civil servants, days after Israel said it would withhold tens of millions of dollars in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel's security cabinet on Sunday approved the freezing of $138 million (122 million euros) over the PA's payments to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis.
Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the PA, says the payments encourage further violence.
The PA claims they are a form of welfare to families who have lost their main breadwinner.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday he would not accept anything but full payment of the tax transfers owed by Israel.
The PA, which is already running a deficit, will "pay the salaries of civil servants in time, but they will be reduced", said PA finance minister Shukri Bishara after a meeting with EU representatives in Ramallah.
The cuts will not apply to salaries "paid to pensioners and families of martyrs, wounded or prisoners", he added, adding that wages below 2,000 shekels ($550) would also not be affected.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes in their conflict with Israel. Palestinian leaders often venerate them as martyrs.
Under a 1994 agreement, Israel collects around $190 million each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.
The money it then transfers to the PA is the authority's most important source of revenue.
The Palestinians want EU countries to pressure the Israeli government to rescind its decision, said Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy of Abbas's Fatah party.
Palestinian leaders will take steps to "boycott Israeli goods", he said, adding they had already prepared "a list of Israeli products that have local (Palestinian) equivalents".