"I see this attack as an attempt to axe, to prevent the democratic opening process," said Erdogan, adding that those initiatives are doomed to fail.
The prime minister added that the army's struggle against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) would continue unabated. PKK is a separatist military organisation recognised as a terrorist group both by the EU and the USA.
Last month, Erdogan said his government was preparing a "package" of reforms to boost the rights and freedoms of Turkish Kurds. Although few details are known, the two main opposition parties, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), slammed the announced opening.
According to the press, the measures include allowing political campaigns in the Kurdish language, providing opportunities for Kurds to learn their mother tongue, allowing the Kurdish language to be spoken in prisons, restoring the former names of thousands of Kurdish towns and villages, and ensuring Kurdish language and literature teaching in two universities - Mardin Artuklu and Diyarbakir Dicle.
Plan under fire
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy chairman Mehmet Şandir said that granting political freedoms to ethnic groups would turn Turkey into a "hell of minorities," the Zaman daily wrote. MHP, which has a nationalistic platform, won 14% of the vote in the 2007 elections.
"If you grant political freedoms to all the ethnic groups in Turkey, whose number is claimed to be 36 by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then you will turn Turkey into a hell of minorities. Unfortunately, Turkey is today being dragged to a very dangerous point due to a reckless act by the AK Party," Şandir reportedly said.
The authorities rebuked allegations that the announced plan was a result of US pressure and a 'secret' US plan to defuse regional problems affecting Iraq, embraced by the ruling AKP.
The Turkish armed forces, which traditionally play the role of 'guardian of secularism', indicated there were some "red lines" which must not be crossed.
"The Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] will not allow any harm to be done to the nation-state and the unitary state structure," Chief of General Staff General Ilker Başbug was quoted as saying by a Kudish online website.
Government defends its ambition
Speaking to editors-in-chief of major newspapers on 28 August, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said the process was a national project and emphasised that Turkey needed to solve its issues on its own.
Arinç, however, conceded that Washington supported his country's plan both logistically and psychologically, against a background of US troop withdrawals from Iraq by 2011, looming Iraqi national elections in January and the future prospects of northern Iraq, where Kurds enjoy substantial autonomy.
"Maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq at a time when terror is wreaking havoc among Kurds, Shiite and Sunni Arabs is in the interest of both Turkey and the US," the deputy prime minister said.
Rejecting contacts with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, Arinç however indicated the government's readiness to work with DTP – the Kurdish Democratic Society Party, which he said should not be considered as a terrorist organisation.
"If you consider the DTP a terrorist organisation or an illegal structure, you are putting over two million voters who cast their ballots in favour of this party in the same place as the terrorists," he stressed.
Arinç said he was visiting DTP mayors as parliament speaker, despite objections from Ankara-appointed local governors. He added that he had long suggested that Erdogan meet with DTP leader Ahmet Türk.