Thousands gather for slain Kurds’ funeral

Updated 18 January 2013
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Thousands gather for slain Kurds’ funeral

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Thousands of Kurds gathered yesterday in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir for the funeral of three female Kurdish activists shot dead in Paris last week.
The growing crowd of participants, including women adorned in white scarves, a symbol of peace, marched in a funeral procession many fear could turn into a violent protest.
A massive convoy followed on foot the hearses carrying the coffins, which were then hoisted onto platforms in a square on the outskirts of the city.
Tens of thousands more were expected to pour into the city during the day to pay homage to the victims.
The three women, one of them Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were found shot execution-style at a Kurdish centre in Paris last week. French police are investigating the mysterious killings.
“Sakine was a historic figure of the movement (PKK),” said Ali Gokot, from the regional ranks of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which organised the funeral.
“Her death is very painful,” he lamented, as women, standing at the front of the huge crowd, chanted: “Fighting makes you free!”
Many could also be heard shouting “revenge.”
The portraits of the three women were placed in front of the coffins, draped in the red, yellow and green Kurdish flag and red carnations.
The bodies were brought back home late Wednesday, as thousands escorted them from Diyarbakir airport to a hospital morgue chanting “Martyrs will live forever.”
Security forces have been placed on high alert with politicians appealing for calm and urging people not to let the killings derail nascent peace talks.
The talks between the Turkish government and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan are aimed and ending the group’s armed campaign that has claimed 45,000 lives in nearly three decades.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speculated the killings could be the result of an “internal feud” within the PKK aimed at crippling the talks.
He urged supporters of the Kurdish cause to be wary of possible “provocateurs who may want to sabotage the process” by disturbing the peace during the funerals.
A police helicopter flew over the funeral procession yesterday and riot police were also deployed.
Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir dismissed concerns of violence erupting.
“The attitude of Diyarbakir will be one that... contributes to the evolution of peace talks to permanent negotiations and peace,” he told AFP on Wednesday.
The bodies will be sent for burial in nearby hometowns today.


Macedonia getting closer to solving name row with Greece

Updated 21 April 2018
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Macedonia getting closer to solving name row with Greece

  • Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev: “I believe that we have never had better circumstances to find a complete solution that will last for centuries and will remain forever.”
  • Athens objects to Macedonia’s name because it has its own northern province called Macedonia, and fears it may imply territorial ambitions.

SKOPJE: Macedonia has never been closer to solving its 25-year name row with Greece, but even if it fails Skopje will continue to integrate with Europe, its premier says.
“I believe that we have never had better circumstances to find a complete solution that will last for centuries and will remain forever,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told AFP in an interview.
The long-running name dispute between Macedonia and EU-member Greece dates back to 1991 when Skopje declared independence following the collapse of communist Yugoslavia.
Athens objects to Macedonia’s name because it has its own northern province called Macedonia, and fears it may imply territorial ambitions.
“If the dispute is not solved, the world will not end,” Zaev said.
“We will bring Europe here to Skopje (the capital). And we will push an European agenda one way or another.”
Because of the dispute, Macedonia was forced to join the United Nations under the name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Greek veto threats have also hampered Skopje’s bid to become a member of the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
UN mediated talks to settle the row have resumed since Zaev’s Social Democrats won elections last year, ousting the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party of Nikola Gruevski after more than ten years in power.
The negotiations have made progress after Macedonia agreed in February to change the name of the capital’s Alexander the Great airport to Skopje International Airport, in a goodwill gesture to Greece.
Macedonia had also been accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered part of Greek culture, such as Alexander the Great.
The motorway linking Macedonia with Greece was also renamed the Friendship Highway.
Zaev said he was “satisfied” that “a huge part of the issues” between Macedonia and Greece had been solved and that he was optimistic about a final deal.
He has previously said an agreement could be reached by the summer. However, the 43-year-old declined to go into details about the ongoing talks, saying “it could destroy the entire process.”
Earlier this week the European Commission recommended opening EU accession talks with Skopje, an EU candidate since 2005, in a development Zaev described as “encouraging.”
“This is a message of open doors. That is very important for Macedonia,” he said, adding that more than 75 percent of Macedonians are in favor of the country’s integration into the EU and NATO.
However, “that does not mean that we should not improve cooperation with other countries, including the Russian Federation,” Zaev said.
Russia has openly objected to the aspirations of fellow Slavic countries in the Balkans to join NATO, most recently when Montenegro became a member in mid-2017.
“I want to improve cooperation with Russia,” Zaev said.
“(But) the Russian Federation should know that for us there is no alternative to NATO and the European Union. We will remain focused on that path. That is our absolute right, our expectation and how we view the future of this country and the people that live here.”