Kurdish rebels call truce and seek talks with Turkey

HUGH POPE

Istanbul

The rebel Turkish Kurd guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan declared a unilateral ceasefire yesterday in his 11-year-old revolt, saying he hoped Europe would put pressure on Turkey to agree to talks on a political solution to the Kurdish problem.

Mr Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), linked the ceasefire in Turkey to his offer this week to make peace with the Iraqi Kurds of Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party. Clashes between the two parties have escalated since August over control of mountains south of the Turkish border.

"This is not a tactical move... there is no meaning in continuing this war," the PKK leader said in a programme broadcast from Brussels by the London-based satellite television station MED-TV. Mr Ocalan spoke in Turkish by telephone, possiblyfrom one of his bases in Syria.

The PKK leader gave no definite limit to the ceasefire, saying it could last until February when it would become clear what policy the Turkish government was to pursue toward the Kurds following general elections on 24 December. "I have good intentions [but if the ceasefire fails] I will turn a tourist paradise into hell," he said.

Mr Ocalan warned the Iraqi Kurds that his men should be allowed to stay in Iraq until he achieved a federal Kurdish entity within Turkey's borders.

In Ankara, a senior official dismissed this first serious initiative to stop the fighting since a ceasefire in March-April 1993. Turkish officials said they believed the PKK was losing its war in both south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq. "We will not negotiate with terrorists. Mr Ocalan should just surrender," the official said.

Mr Ocalan said a recent resolution in the European Parliament calling for Turkey, the PKK and Kurdish representatives to hold peace talks both legitimised the PKK and made the Parliament the ideal meeting point for such talks.

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