Erdogan has promised  to carry on with a reform drive to earn European Union membership for Turkey, which has resulted in broader Kurdish cultural freedoms.

"Let us not stand against those who want to sow discord among us ... Let us protect our peace and stand united. If we increase our solidarity, we will also increase our development," he said.

"We have made significant progress on human rights and the government is pursues EU membership with determination. We will undertake many more reforms."

Series of protests

A series of Kurdish demonstrations have taken place across Turkey since October as the military increased its operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, picked up arms for self-rule in the country's east and southeast in 1984.

Kurds have been outraged over alllegations that Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, was mistreated and threatened with death in prison where he is serving a life sentence in solitary confinement.

However, Erdogan denied the allegations and dismissed them as a ploy to drain support from the ruling party before local elections next year.

"There is no mistreatment, it is all a lie ... They are making up excuses as the elections draw near," he said.

Eye on victory

The AKP, which won a re-election to power last year, has now set its sight on winning local administrations in the southeast, which are held by the DTP.

Erdogan has publicly accused the DTP of failing to provide services in the Kurdish-majority provinces it holds and has also criticised the party for failing to condemn PKK violence.

The DTP is currently facing a possible ban by the constitutional court for links with PKK fighters.

The party, which urges a peaceful resolution to the violent conflict in the southeast, denies the allegations.