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Rebel withdrawal grinds to halt as peace talks falter

PKK accuses Turkish government of reneging on agreement

Kurdish rebels have accused the Turkish government of failing to advance peace talks, and said they would suspend their withdrawal to bases in northern Iraq.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) declared a ceasefire in March and began withdrawing fighters from Turkey in May as part of peace efforts.

Turkey was expected in turn to enact reforms to improve Kurdish rights.

But the PKK has now accused Turkey of failing to honour its side of the bargain and called on it to take steps toward “democratisation and the resolution of the Kurdish problem.”

However, the PKK said the ceasefire would stand.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag dismissed the rebel statement and said Turkey was determined to end the conflict.

He said: “Whatever the terror organisation does is up to them. But Turkey will do whatever needs to be done. We shall continue to work and to struggle until the terror comes to an end.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government claims that it is working on a package of democratic reforms, but has delayed taking proposals to parliament.

The government argues that the rebels have not fully pulled out of Turkey. Mr Erdogan claimed last month that only 20 per cent of the fighters had left.

But the PKK blamed Mr Erdogan’s government for the problems.

“The government — which gave no importance to the fact that the guerillas had significantly withdrawn out of Turkey’s border, which did not reciprocate and which tried to use the process as a diversion and to enter local elections in a peaceful environment — is responsible for the situation,” the rebel statement said.

The PKK said that it wants the government to ease the isolation of its imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan and change anti-terrorism laws to ensure the release of hundreds of Kurdish activists accused of links to the rebels.

Mr Ocalan, who is leading the peace talks on behalf of the rebels, is serving a life term on a prison island off Istanbul and has limited access to lawyers and Kurdish politicians involved in the talks.


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