Iraqi Kurdish prime minister urges PKK cease-fire

The Iraqi Kurdish region’s premier, Nechirvan Barzani, on Wednesday urged Kurdish rebels to declare a cease-fire “and think of another solution” to achieving their goal of a Kurdish state.

“If they continue this way, they will cause a lot of damage to themselves,” Barzani told a news conference in Irbil, capital of northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

“We ask the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] to think of another solution and give up the military,” Barzani added.

The PKK was established in late 1970s, adopting Marxism-Leninism ideology. It has waged an armed campaign against Turkey since 1984 with the aim of winning autonomy for Turkish Kurds.

Ankara last month threatened to strike PKK bases in northern Iraq if Baghdad and Washington fail to take urgent action against the rebels. It accuses the Iraqi Kurds of aiding the group, listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community.

“The PKK should take into consideration our [regional] interests and think of another solution, a peaceful one, and announce a long-term and unconditional cease-fire,” said Barzani. He denied claims by Turkey the regional authority is not doing enough to rein in the rebels.

“We took measures against the PKK to prevent them traveling by air, we increased observations on Makhmor camp [where Turkish Kurd refugees are sheltered], and we have tightened measures around the camp to prevent any infiltration by the PKK. Turkey is an important country for us. We have good economic relations,” Barzani said.

Tension between Ankara and Baghdad intensified in recent weeks after PKK fighters ambushed a Turkish military patrol and killed 12 soldiers. The ambush angered Ankara which has threatened to launch a military incursion into northern Iraq to attack the guerrillas.

Turkish troops killed three Kurdish guerrillas in a clash in the country’s southeast, the military announced on Wednesday. One soldier was reported killed.

Rebels attacked an outpost in the southeastern province of Tunceli on Tuesday night and shot and killed a sergeant, the governor’s office said. But the military said the clash occurred in a rural area near the village of Yukaricanakci in Tunceli.

One of the slain rebels was a woman, near the village of Canakci the military said.

PKK rebels have killed more than 40 Turks in hit-and-run attacks over the past month, mainly soldiers, raising the public pressure on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to retaliate.

The rebels have been staging their attacks from bases in northern Iraq in a war for autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast since they first attacked a military unit in 1984. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.

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