Turkey open to tackling problem of internally displaced persons – UN expert

Francis Deng, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, said his visit to Turkey from 27 to 31 May had revealed “that an opportunity now exists for the international community to assist the Government of Turkey in the challenging task of facilitating the voluntary return, resettlement and reintegration of the displaced population.”Mr. Deng had initiated his trip in response to international concerns over the conflict in the southeast of the country between security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). There was a “widely shared perception that the Government has been largely in denial of the problem to the point of not seeking international assistance in meeting the needs of those affected,” he noted.Following his extensive talks with Turkish officials, Mr. Deng reported a gap between the negative perception of Government policy and the positive attitude he found during his mission. “Discussions with ministers and officials at all levels revealed surprising openness and transparency on the part of the authorities to discuss the various aspects of the displacement problem, including its causes, in particular the conflict in the south-east and the responsibility of both sides for the displacement of the civilian population, as well as the steps which are being taken to facilitate the return and resettlement of the internally displaced,” he said.He also hailed the Government’s decision to lift the state of emergency in two of the four affected provinces during his mission, and the declared policy of lifting it in the remaining two in the near future. The Representative, who will report his findings to the Commission on Human Rights and the Secretary-General, called attention to the need for the Government to formulate a clear policy on the issue. He also recommended close cooperation among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the service of the affected communities. “An open and constructive partnership involving the Government, civil society, and international agencies would serve to facilitate the timely and effective implementation of the Government’s return policy, while at the same time alleviating the concerns expressed by NGOs and improving the perception of the problem, both within and outside the country,” Mr. Deng said.