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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Kurdish Rebels Offer to Cease Hostilities if Turkey Abandons Military Operations

By VOA News
22 October 2007

Rebels with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, say they are willing to find a peaceful solution to their issues with Turkey if the Turkish military abandons all plans for an incursion into northern Iraq.

In a statement received by Reuters in Baghdad Monday evening, the PKK said it was ready to "extend the hand of peace again" if Turkey stopped all military operations against Kurdish fighters.

Earlier Monday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani stated that the rebels would declare a ceasefire, but there is no indication as yet that the PKK has announced one.

Kurdish rebels killed 12 Turkish soldiers in an ambush Sunday near the Iraqi border, in Turkey's Hakkari province. Rebels say they captured eight soldiers. Turkey's military says it killed 32 rebels in a counter-offensive.

President Bush told Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Monday that the U.S. is urging Iraq to take action against the PKK.

Last week, the Turkish government won parliamentary approval to carry out military raids into northern Iraq to hunt for the rebels. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on Monday said Ankara will first pursue diplomatic means to resolve the crisis.

Babacan, who is in Kuwait, is expected to discuss the issue with Iraqi officials Tuesday in Baghdad.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appealed for Turkish-Iraqi cooperation on the issue in telephone conversations Sunday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the leader of Iraq's Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani. Mr. Erdogan said he asked the United States to take "speedy" action in northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, says Washington does not want to see wider military action on Iraq's northern border.

About two thousand Turkish protesters rallied against the PKK in Istanbul today and criticized Mr. Erdogan for not taking immediate military action. In northern Iraq, demonstrators urged Turkey not to carry out a cross-border raid.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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