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Kurd Rebels End Ceasefire Against Turkey

06 October 2005

Kurdish rebels declared they had ended a two-month unilateral ceasefire against Turkey. In a statement faxed to the international media, the group known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party said it is resuming its armed campaign against Turkish security forces because they had ignored the opportunity to forge a lasting peace and had continued operations against the rebels.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party rebels, known as the PKK, described their decision as "legitimate act of self defense" on behalf of the Kurdish people. They also harshly criticized the European Union for what they termed, failing to set resolution of the Kurdish problem among its conditions for Turkey's eventual membership.

The European Union formally opened talks with Turkey on October 3 and has been pressing the Ankara government to expand cultural and political rights for the country's estimated 14 million Kurds.

During the past year, Turkey has scrapped bans on teaching the Kurdish language, although it is still only being taught as a foreign language in privately run courses and not state schools. It has also launched Kurdish language broadcasts on state television. Their content is strictly cultural.

The European Union has welcomed such moves as a symbolic first steps, but says that Turkey still falls short of fully implementing a broad swath of reforms it has adopted in recent years. That message was echoed by a group of European parliament members, who will be traveling to the largely Kurdish Van Province on a fact-finding tour.

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, who arrived Tuesday in Turkey for three days of talks, said the country would not likely be eligible for full membership for at least a decade.

Western diplomats say the PKK's demands to become an interlocutor during the negotiating process will likely be rebuffed. The European Union has included the PKK on its list of terrorist organizations and condemned its recent attacks against civilian targets including Western tourists. Nearly 40,000 people have died since the PKK launched its armed campaign for Kurdish independence in 1984.

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