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Obama eyes 'real progress' in Turkey peace talks: report

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US President Barack Obama said he believes Turkey's efforts to try to resolve the three-decade conflict with Kurdish rebels will lead to "real progress," according to remarks published in a Turkish newspaper on Sunday.

"I applaud Prime Minister (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan's efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to a struggle that has caused so much pain and sorrow," he told the Milliyet newspaper, referring to negotiations launched last year between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"I believe that the proactive measures that the Turkish government is undertaking can lead to real progress," he said, according to a copy of Obama's comments in English provided by the newspaper.

Turkish secret services resumed peace talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan late last year, aiming to disarm the rebels who use bases in Iraq as a springboard to launch attacks on government security forces in the Kurdish majority southeast.

The PKK, which took up arms in its campaign for autonomy in the southeast in 1984, is branded a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies. More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died since the conflict began.

"A peaceful resolution will not only improve the lives of millions of citizens living in the violence-torn regions of southeast Turkey it will mean more security and prosperity for people across Turkey for generations to come," Obama wrote in response to questions from Milliyet.

He said the United States will continue to support Turkey in its "desire to close this terrible chapter and begin a new chapter of peace and security".

Both countries are members of NATO and the United States has for several years supported Ankara in its fight against the PKK on Iraqi soil.

Local media reports say the rebels could lay down their arms in the first half of this year, but this has been denied by some PKK officials.

The PKK has declared several ceasefires in the past but they collapsed amid clashes between Turkish security forces and rebels.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130210/obama-eyes-real-progress-turkey-peace-talks-report