Turkey reiterates anti-terrorism resolution after PKK ceasefire announcement

10:04, August 21, 2010      

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Turkey's top security body has reiterated its resolution to fight terrorism without concessions after the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist group by the Turkish government, announced a unilateral ceasefire last week.

"We have emphasized the strong belief that our nation will continue to behave with common sense and not allow the PKK to attain their wicked objectives by bringing disorder, weakening the unity of the people or damaging social peace," the National Security Council (MGK) said in a statement after a six-hour meeting in Istanbul on Thursday, according to local newspaper Hurriyet Daily News.

The MGK statement on Thursday did not explicitly refer to the PKK ceasefire but the issue was likely discussed during the meeting, the newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying.

The PKK, which took up arms in 1984 in order to create an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey, announced last week a ceasefire between Aug. 13 and Sept. 20 for the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

The ceasefire will expire about a week after a scheduled referendum over a government-backed constitutional amendment package, which has been criticized by opposition parties as an attempt by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to control the judiciary and other state institutions.

The timing of the ceasefire has led to allegations that the Turkish government convinced the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to lay down arms to create a favorable environment for the referendum and in return promised to improve the prison conditions for Ocalan and make concessions over the Kurdish issue.

The ceasefire decision followed bargains with the Turkish government, the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency on Tuesday quoted a PKK official as saying.

"The state itself has requested a ceasefire on the basis of a dialogue developed with our leadership," Murat Karayilan was quoted as saying.

However, the Turkish government has strongly denied such claims, saying the state's stance was not to negotiate with terrorists.

"The state implements every sort of methods, but it does not sit at the negotiating table with terrorists or bargain with them, " Turkish President Abdullah Gul told reporters on Monday on his way to Azerbaijan for a visit.

Some 40,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving the PKK for the past two decades. The Turkish military has launched frequent operations to eradicate PKK militants in the southeast and east and conducted air strikes against PKK bases in north Iraq.

Meanwhile, a reform plan was announced in July to expand rights for the Kurdish minority and erode support for the PKK. The AKP said the reform, dubbed at "democratic initiative," would include such moves as removing restrictions on Kurdish language use and establishing a national mechanism to prevent torture.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has hit out at what they called negotiations between the government and the PKK, saying the AKP aimed to win votes of the Kurdish minority in the referendum with that move.

"The AKP no longer considers the PKK a terrorist organization, but simply mentions that it as an illegal organization. It is clear evidence of the existence of negotiations (with the PKK)," CHP chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu was quoted by Hurriyet of telling reporters on Friday.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of the second biggest opposition Nationalist Movement Party, said there had been four rounds of talks between the government and the PKK, according to the newspaper.

A lasting ceasefire is possible if Turkey stops military operations, releases Kurdish detainees and puts a concrete program for its Kurdish initiative, Firat quoted former PKK member Seydi Firat as saying.

During Thursday's meeting, the MGK also reviewed measures to be taken to ensure safety during the coming referendum, which is due on Sept. 12.



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