August 13, 2010 / 6:50 PM / 10 years ago

Kurdish rebels announce ceasefire to September 20

QANDIL MOUNTAINS, Iraq (Reuters) - Kurdish militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced a ceasefire against Turkish forces until September 20, a PKK official said on Friday.

A lasting ceasefire was possible if Turkey stopped military operations, released some 1,700 political detainees and started a peace process, PKK official Bozan Tekin told reporters in the mountains near the Turkish border.

“The PKK announces a conditional ceasefire,” Tekin said, citing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as a reason for the move.

The announcement came days after Turkey said suspected PKK rebels had blown up a pipeline in southeastern Turkey carrying Iraqi oil.

Asked if the rebels were targeting pipelines, Tekin said: “Yes, our troops have done that. It’s part of our self defense. Oil is not just related to the economy but has been turned into a weapon against us,” he said, without elaborating.

Tekin also said: “We believe that a ceasefire at this time might have positive results toward developing a political and peaceful solution.”

The Turkish government has in the past rejected the PKK’s unilateral ceasefire declarations saying a ceasefire assumes two legal parties in conflict.

The PKK has scrapped previous ceasefires due to continued military operations by the Turkish army against the guerrillas.

The militants called off a unilateral, 14-month ceasefire in June. More than 100 military personnel have been killed since March, exceeding the death toll throughout all of 2009.

The violence has undermined an attempt by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government to boost Kurdish minority rights and end a 26-year separatist conflict.

His government is under pressure to contain violence that threatens to hit his popularity in an election set by July 2011.

More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed since the PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984 for an independent homeland. The rebels say they now want greater rights and autonomy for Turkey’s estimated 15 million Kurds.

Turkish special forces captured the PKK’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in 1999 after forcing him to abandon his refuge in Syria.

Writing by Ulf Laessing; additional reporting by Selcuk Gokoluk; editing by Janet Lawrence

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