Turkish President Abdullah Gül has met with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin in Ankara to discuss a hunger strike by Kurdish prisoners which has been high on the country's agenda for more than a month.
The meeting, which was closed to the press and lasted for more than one hour, took place on Tuesday in the Çankaya presidential palace in Ankara. Reports said Gül received information from Ergin on the condition of some 700 Kurdish inmates who have been on hunger strike for more than 50 days in dozens of prisons across the country.
The inmates are refusing solid food to try to exert pressure on the government to grant greater Kurdish minority rights and better prison conditions for Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is imprisoned on an island in the Sea of Marmara south of İstanbul.
According to reports, Gül expressed his concern over the condition of the strikers, ordering the justice minister to take urgent action to end the hunger strike, which entered its 57th day on Wednesday.
While Gül is concerned about the issue, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has played down the strike, saying only one prisoner was on a “death fast” and was being monitored medically.
"Currently there is no such thing as the hunger strike. This is a complete show," he told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday.
In the meantime, French Senator Michel Billout, also a member of the European Parliament, held a press conference on the issue of hunger strike on Tuesday in the Turkish Parliament with pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Muş deputy Demir Çelik and a French delegation including local governors.
Billout, came to Turkey a week ago, staying in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır for six days to gather information on the condition of the strikers there.
“We saw that the [medical] conditions of the strikers are more critical than we had thought,” Billout said during the press conference, calling on the Turkish government to step up cooperation to end the strike.
The BDP's presence in Parliament can be treated as an opportunity, the French senator further stated.