Kurdish rebels end Turkey 'truce'

PKK official says group is calling of six-month "period of non-action" put in place ahead of national election.

    Many Kurds want greater autnonomy for ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey [GALLO/GETTY]

    Kurdish fighters in Turkey have called off a six-month ceasefire, threatening a fragile peace in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast, ahead of a national election scheduled in June.

    Ahmet Deniz, a leader in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), based in northern Iraq, told the Reuters news agency on Monday that the group would respond to any attack on its forces.

    "Our position has now changed, and we are assuming an active defence. Any kind of attack on us will now definitely be answered," he was reported by Reuters as saying.

    The PKK declared a "period of non-action" in August and then extended it until Turkey's election, now set for June 12.

    Deniz said the PKK, which has waged a decades-long fight against the Turkish state, was now ending the one-sided truce because the Turkish government had failed to address Kurdish grievances.

    'Period of non-action'

    Fighting in Kurdish-dominated southeast Anatolia had lessened significantly since the August truce, but the ceasefire also coincided with the time the PKK traditionally winds down attacks due to adverse weather conditions in the remote mountains of the border region where it is based.

    A statement from the group said that it would not be the first to attack, but would defend itself "more effectively" against operations of the Turkish army.

    It also demanded an end to such operations, the easing of prison conditions for Abdullah Ocalan, its jailed leader, and the release of other detained Kurdish politicians.

    Turkey's military has continued shelling PKK sites since the group halted hostilities, Deniz said.

    While Ankara had previously signalled it would scale down military operations against the rebels, it stressed security forces would act if they obtained intelligence about PKK activities threatening public order and security.

    Officially, Turkey does not recognise the ceasefire and has vowed to continue fighting the group.

    Dialogue stalled

    The government has launched a cautious bid for a dialogue with the Kurds, and hopes the PKK will permanently lay down arms. But the process has stalled over Ankara's rejection of the Kurds' demand for autonomy.

    The PKK took up arms in 1984 in a bid to carve out an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey, but has scaled back its demands to greater political autonomy and cultural rights for Turkey's estimated 15 million ethnic Kurds.

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, launched a Kurdish "opening" in 2009 which aimed to broaden cultural rights for Turkey's largest minority in a bid to end the fight with the PKK but the effort has faltered.

    Political analysts say Erdogan's AK Party could lose votes if it tries to revive the effort as it gears up for election season.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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