March 25, 2015 / 3:18 PM / in 3 years

Turkish military says clashes with Kurdish militants in southeast

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Turkish military exchanged fire with Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey on Wednesday in a rare violation of a two-year old ceasefire, part of a peace process between the militants and Ankara.

The clash occurred four days after jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan said the group’s 30-year insurgency against Turkey had become “unsustainable” and urged it to hold a congress on laying down its weapons.

The lira weakened against the dollar on concern about the ceasefire breaking down. The authority of President Tayyip Erdogan, whose AK Party faces important elections in June, is to some extent linked to success of the peace process he initiated despite the resistance of nationalist forces.

The Turkish armed forces fired artillery and mortar shells at PKK positions in the Daglica area of Hakkari province near the Iraqi border in retaliation for the PKK firing three mortar shells, the general staff said in a statement on its website.

It said the guerrillas then opened fire with machine guns on Turkish troops, but there were no reports of casualties.

“Our elements in the region immediately returned fire at the terrorist shooting,” the statement said, adding that security measures at its bases in the region were subsequently tightened.

Ocalan, who has been jailed on an island south of Istanbul since 1999, launched peace talks with now-President Tayyip Erdogan’s government in 2012 to end a conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people. But progress has been faltering.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Ralph Boulton

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