August 8, 2015 / 11:45 AM / 2 years ago

Pro-Kurdish party leader calls for steps to halt Turkey violence

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - The leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP urged the militant Kurdistan Workers Party on Saturday to “remove its finger from the trigger” and said the government should launch talks to halt a surge in violence.

Women mourn during a funeral ceremony for three Turkish Kurdish men, who were killed during clashes between security forces and PKK on Friday, in the southeastern town of Silopi in Sirnak province, Turkey, August 8, 2015. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

The militant PKK announced it was stepping up attacks in mid-July, saying Turkish forces were violating a 2013 ceasefire. Turkey began an air campaign against PKK camps in northern Iraq on July 24.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas told reporters: “Today we call to both sides: the PKK must immediately remove its finger from the trigger and declare it will observe the ceasefire.”

Speaking in the southeastern city of Van, a day after six people were killed in clashes between security forces and militants in the mainly Kurdish southeast, he said the government must halt security operations and revive a peace process launched with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 2012.

Demirtas’ HDP won 13 percent of the vote in a June 7 election which has yet to produce a coalition government. He had regularly visited Ocalan in his Imrali island jail south of Istanbul.

Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said the state was continuing talks with Ocalan but the HDP could no longer visit him because it had “betrayed” the process.

In comments to Milliyet newspaper published on Saturday, he said tactical PKK declarations on halting violence were unacceptable.

“Their withdrawal from Turkey and a complete halt to activities is now a pre-requisite,” he said.

“A coalition may be formed or not but peace is urgent. Mr Davutoglu, we are not requesting this from you. You are obliged to do it,” Demirtas said in comments addressed to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

As well as PKK targets, Turkish jets have hit Islamic State positions in Syria. Ankara has also allowed the U.S.-led coalition targeting the IS militants to use its air bases.

In a show of support for the army, Davutoglu on Saturday visited a border outpost in Kilis province near where a soldier was killed in clashes with IS militants on the Syrian side of the border last month.

On Friday evening militants fired a rocket at an armored car in the town of Cizre, killing a police officer and wounding another, security sources said.

Earlier that day, three people were killed and seven wounded during clashes between police and PKK in the town of Silopi. Both towns are close to Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq.

In Van and Agri provinces, militants killed two soldiers, bringing the death toll among Turkish security forces since July 20 to at least 21.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union, launched its insurgency in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky/Ruth Pitchford

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