By Ayla Jean Yackley
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The American left-wing philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky urged Turkey on Friday to end its "malignant" war with Kurdish rebels, saying recent peace efforts offered a real chance of a settlement.
Chomsky, whose writings have in the past caused trouble for his Turkish publisher, said the growing independence of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and the possibility that Syria's Kurdish zone could break away if Syria's civil war worsens meant Turkey must confront its own Kurdish problem fast.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is backing talks with Abdullah Ocalan, head of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and says he is sincere about trying to end a war with the PKK that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.
"Turkey must find its place if, of course, it can heal its internal sores, and none is more malignant than the perennial Kurdish issue," Chomsky said in a talk at Bosphorus University.
"There do appear to be some real prospects with recent negotiations despite criminal efforts to disrupt them," he academic said, referring to the assassination of three Kurdish activists in Paris last week.
Chomsky also criticized Turkey's practice of jailing journalists, especially those from Kurdish media.
Reporters Without Borders calls Turkey the world's biggest prison for journalists, with 72 jailed as of December.
Chomsky's publisher was accused of violating anti-terrorism laws and "insulting Turkishness" for printing criticism by Chomsky of Turkey's handling of the fight against the PKK. The cases, stemming from 2002 and 2006, resulted in acquittals.
Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization.
Chomsky, professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was speaking at a lecture in honor of journalist Hrant Dink, who published an Armenian-Turkish newspaper until his murder on January 19, 2007.
Chomsky called Dink a "brave martyr of freedom".
(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Kevin Liffey)