Turkey: Pro-Kurdish party leader meets Muslim figures

ISTANBUL - Turkey's pro-Kurdish party leader has met with prominent figures from various Muslim groups Friday in Istanbul, in a bid to reach different religious groups ahead of the 2015 general elections. 

Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas and his People's Democratic Party, or HDP, have made efforts to expand from Turkey’s traditionally Kurdish southeastern region and reach out to the country as a whole in the upcoming national elections in June.

"We will take a serious step for removing the sentiment of standing apart that creates polarization and tension and prevents people from understanding each other," Demirtas told reporters before the meeting with religious groups.

Back in October 2013, Altan Tan, an HDP parliamentarian, had criticized his party for its lack necessary dialogue with religious groups, also criticizing it for being too mired in far-left politics. 

Some 30 people joined Demirtas in the Istanbul meeting, including Ihsan Eliacik, a Muslim cleric who openly supported 2013's anti-government Gezi protests in Istanbul. Representatives from associations such as Anti-Capitalist Muslims and the Labor and Justice Coalition were also there.

The pro-Kurdish party has decided to go into the June elections as a party. Its members are confident they will pass the threshold - stipulating that a minimum of 10 percent of the votes, nationally, were required for a party to enter parliament.

In the past, HDP candidates would run as independents in the southeastern parts of the country in order to circumvent this rule. Only once elected would they announce to join the pro-Kurdish party.

The People’s Democratic Party was created on the ashes of the Peace and Democracy Party with the aim of developing a less Kurdish-centric group with more inclusive policies that would resonate outside of the party’s base of operations, i.e. southeastern Turkey.

The region has historically been subject to considerable violence namely between Turkish armed forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The Turkish government is currently in talks to put an end to the decades-old conflict, which has left some 40,000 dead.

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