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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 August 2007, 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK
New Turkish parliament sworn in
Ahmet Turk, DTP leader
Kurdish MPs are in the chamber for the first time since 1991
Turkey has sworn in a new parliament with attention focusing on 20 pro-Kurdish deputies, represented for the first time since 1991.

The new deputies say they want reconciliation and a peaceful solution to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, which has claimed 30,000 lives since 1983.

The last Kurdish MPs to be elected were jailed for taking their oath in Kurdish but this time they spoke Turkish.

Their party was later banned for its alleged links to the PKK rebel group.

The new parliament convened after last month's elections saw the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) strengthen its position in the house, whose first major task will be to elect a new president.

The AKP's previous nomination for the post, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, triggered a political crisis and a warning from the military that it was ready to intervene.

Secularists were concerned that Mr Gul began his career in the pro-Islamic Welfare Party, and has a wife who wears the headscarf - an extremely divisive symbol in Turkey.

Clashes

In a ceremony which took several hours, deputies swore their loyalty to a united, independent and secular Turkish republic.

PARTIES IN PARLIAMENT
Turkey Parliament
AKP 341 seats
CHP 99 seats
MHP 70 seats
Kurdish MPs (DTP) 20 seats
Democratic Left Party 13 seats
Independents 6 seats
Total 550 seats

Kurdish MPs from the Democratic Society Party (DTP) insist they want to use parliament as a platform for dialogue.

"We want to help in working out a peaceful and democratic process... in a spirit of conciliation and dialogue," leader Ahmet Turk told Turkish TV.

DTP members said they would work within the current system to press for Kurdish rights, though they considered it flawed.

"In our strategy we still have lots of criticisms of the rules because they are completely undemocratic rules, but anyway until we change them we will follow them," senior member Nasmi Gur told the BBC.

Alongside the pro-Kurdish MPs, deputies from the nationalist MHP party are also taking their seats. The two parties' leaders shook hands.

The MHP won 70 seats in the 22 July poll, after running a hardline anti-Kurdish campaign, at a time when clashes between the army and the Kurdish separatist PKK are on the rise.

Presidential elections

Mr Gul has refused to rule himself out of the running when the election process begins in 10 days' time.

Abdullah Gul
Abdullah Gul still wants to be president

A candidate needs a two-thirds majority to be elected president in the first two rounds of voting and an absolute majority, 276, in the third round.

The AKP should be easily able to elect a candidate in the third round.

But it also needs a quorum of 367 MPs, a goal which eluded the party last May and led to the early parliamentary elections.

The MHP has hinted it will not boycott the presidential poll, thus ensuring a quorum.

The nationalists hope, however, to be able to put pressure on the government to nominate a less controversial candidate than Mr Gul.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Turkey's new MPs gather inside parliament



SEE ALSO
Gul's presidential bid boosted
26 Jul 07 |  Europe

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