Turkey to pursue Kurd rebels till they lay down arms: PM

Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:13pm EST
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By Jonathon Burch and Daren Butler

ANKARA/DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday military operations against Kurdish rebels would continue until they laid down their arms, as Turkish media reported warplanes had bombed militants in northern Iraq for a third day.

The prospect of an end to three decades of war between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has gained momentum in recent weeks after the government acknowledged it was talking to the insurgents' jailed leader.

Erdogan, under pressure to bring an end to the violence, has said his government's renewed peace efforts are sincere but has also maintained Ankara's hardline rhetoric over a conflict that has burned for 30 years.

"We want a solution with all our hearts, but to achieve this we will never compromise our dignity," Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party at their headquarters in Ankara.

"Until the terror organization lays down its arms, until they end their attacks, our security forces will continue their operations," he said, describing the nascent peace talks as a "test of sincerity".

Turkish warplanes bombed PKK targets in northern Iraq overnight, according to media reports. Broadcaster CNN Turk said on Tuesday jets had also attacked PKK forces there on Sunday and Monday, in the first such raids since details of talks with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan emerged.

Firat news agency, which has close links to the PKK, reported on Wednesday seven PKK fighters had been killed this week in air strikes.

There was no official Turkish confirmation of the raids.   Continued...

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media during a meeting with Senegal's President Macky Sall at the presidential palace in Dakar January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney