Confusion remains over Turkey truce

Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq deny reports of offering conditional ceasefire.

    Tens of thousand of Turkish troops are deployed in the southeast of Turkey near the Iraq border [AFP]
    The PKK killed 17 Turkish troops in an attack early on Sunday in Hakkari province near the Iraq border.

    Turkey's military said that 32 Kurdish fighters died in subsequent clashes.
    The ceasefire announcement on a PKK website came just hours after Turkey's foreign minister said that all diplomatic efforts would be exhausted before troops were sent into northern Iraq.

    'Political efforts'

    "We will continue to exert these diplomatic and political efforts with good intention to resolve this crisis caused by a terrorist organisation," Ali Babacan said in Kuwait on Monday.

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    However, he said that if peaceful means failed Anakara "will not hesitate" to use the parliamentary authorisation agreed on Wednesday, permitting cross-border raids in pursuit of PKK fighters.

    Babacan is expected to travel to Iraq on Tuesday to meet Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president.

    Meanwhile, George Bush, the US president, expressed his "deep concern" about Kurdish rebel attacks and told Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, the United States would continue to urge the Iraqis to take action against the PKK, the White House said.


    Bush also spoke with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, and the two agreed to work with Turkey to prevent the rebels from carrying out attacks from Iraqi soil.


    "We want the Iraqi government to take swift action to stop the activity of the PKK," Tony Fratto, the White House spokesman, said.


    "We do not want to see wider military action on the northern border."

    Earlier, the Turkish military confirmed that eight troops were still missing after the attack.

    "Despite all search efforts, no contact has been established with eight missing personnel since shortly after the armed attack on the military unit," it said.

    Street protests

    Thousands of people spilled onto the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, chanting slogans criticing the PKK in a secod day of protests.
    About 3,000 demonstrators carrying Turkish flags crowded Kadikoy square in Istanbul after the opposition Republican People's Party called for a mass gathering.

    "Martyrs are eternal, the nation is indivisible," they chanted, along with, "Tayyip, send your son to the army," a reference to the prime minister's son who was exempted from the draft for health reasons.

    The Cumhuriyet newspaper also voiced the frustration of many in Turkey on Monday with the headline, "Enough is enough", while the front page of Yeni Safak read "We are all conscripts".

    Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee in Ankara said that the public demands for action would make it difficult for Turkey's government to accept a ceasefire offer from the PKK without appearing weak. 

    Turkey avoided ordering an immediate cross-border operation at an emergency meeting attended by Turkey's cabinet and military leaders on Sunday, but it ended with a statement saying that Turkey would do everything to protect itself.

    'Speedy steps'

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, said late on Sunday that he had told Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, during a telephone conversation that he expected "speedy steps from the US" to bring the PKK under control.

    He said Rice had expressed her sympathy over the attack and asked Erdogan not to take any action "for a few days".

    Thousands of protesters took to the streets
    demanding action after the PKK attack [AFP]

    Iraq has urged restraint from Ankara and al-Maliki described the PKK raid as a "terrorist operation."

    Iraqi ministers told a special session of parliament, however, that no troops could be spared to pursue the PKK, but vowed to cut supplies to the fighters in an attempt to ward off the threat of an incursion.

    Abdel Qader al-Obeidi, the defence minister, appeared to suggest that the US military should take action, saying that security in Iraq was the responsibility of the US-led coalition.

    In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, hundreds of mostly Kurdish demonstrators holding banners in Arabic, Kurdish and English gathered shouting "No, No Turkey! No, No  to aggression!".

    Residents of the main Kurdish cities of Irbil and Sulaiymaniah have said they fear the economic cost of any Turkish military action and some have started stockpiling food.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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