Kurdish rebels extend cease-fire on Turkish forces for 1 month

By Yahya Barzanji, AP
Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kurdish rebels extend cease-fire against Turkey

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — A leader of Kurdish rebels seeking greater autonomy in Turkey said Thursday the group will extend its unilateral cease-fire for another month in hopes of opening talks with Turkish leaders.

Murad Karialan, the co-president of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, said there is a possibility for an open-ended halt to attacks if Turkey agrees to concessions such as releasing jailed Kurdish politicians.

But Turkey has ignored all PKK cease-fire declarations in the past.

“If we feel there is positive response from the Turkish side, we will decide on an indefinite cease-fire,” Karialan told reporters at a PKK base in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains northwest of Sulaimaniyah.

The PKK began the cease-fire in mid-August to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The PKK has staged hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets — mostly from bases in northern Iraq — in their decades-long campaign for autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting.

The group is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Turkey has recently taken steps to improve the rights of Kurds, who make up 20 percent of Turkey’s population, including allowing Kurdish-language television broadcasts. The government has also increased contacts with the Kurds in recent days as part of a campaign to end the conflict, though it maintains an official policy of not talking to the rebel group.

A separate Kurdish rebel faction seeking greater rights in Iran also has bases the rugged mountains of northern Iraq.

On Sunday, Iran’s state television reported that forces crossed into Iraq and killed 30 fighters from a group involved in a deadly bomb attack last week at a military parade in northwestern Iran. Iranian officials blamed the bombing on Kurdish rebels, though most Kurdish groups condemned the attack and there has been no claim of responsibility.

Leaders of the Iranian Kurdish rebels denied Iran made any incursions across the border.

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