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Turkish official urges Kurdish rebels to surrender

Turkish official urges Kurdish rebels to surrender

Turkey on Friday urged Kurdish rebels to "lay down their arms and come home," but rejected calls from rebel supporters and Kurdish politicians to start a dialogue with imprisoned Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan.
Interior Minister Besir Atalay said Friday that the government was trying to end fighting with the autonomy-seeking rebels by improving democracy and human rights in the process. However, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc ruled out any dialogue with Ocalan.
A group of unarmed Kurdish rebels and refugees arrived in Turkey from northern Iraq this week in a peace gesture. But celebrations by thousands of Kurds chanting illegal pro-Ocalan slogans and waving banners of the rebel group angered Turkish authorities, triggering protests and legal action by prosecutors. The military strongly criticized the celebrations after their arrival.
"The incidents are in no way acceptable," Maj. Gen. Ferit Guler told a news conference. "Everybody should refrain from acts that could drag the country toward polarization, separation and conflict."
The military stressed that these developments would not deter its "determination in fighting terrorism."
Atalay issued a stern warning, urging everyone to use common sense for the sake of the peace process.
"No one should even think about a repeat of these scenes," Atalay told a televised news conference. "We are taking risks, making so many sacrifices. Don't block this process. It requires patience, we expect the public's support."
Atalay said: "All we want is to stop the bloodshed, to stop the killings. We want no more blood, no more tears."
Amnesty for fighters and more rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority are key demands of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which began attacks in 1984 and is labeled a terrorist group by the West. As many as 40,000 people have died in a war that reached its peak in the 1990s.
Turkish law pardons rebels not involved in attacks, but the PKK wants a broader amnesty that would include leaders who operate in northern Iraq, and Ocalan, a reviled figure for most Turks. The group backed the surrender of the rebels on Monday, apparently to test the goodwill of a government that is seeking reconciliation with its Kurdish citizens. The government also keeps a list of wanted PKK insurgents, which would probably bar them from being pardoned.
But the jubilant welcoming of the rebels in guerrilla outfits across Kurdish-dominated southeast triggered angry protests elsewhere in the country. Television showed a veteran soldier smashing his framed medal to the ground and removing and waving his prosthetic limb in protest.
A retired teacher, Hulya Saglam, petitioned military authorities in the northwestern town of Edremit not to send her two sons for obligatory military service in protest, saying "welcoming those who fired bullets at the state with drum beating and music has hurt me," HaberTurk television reported.
"Giving them a hero's welcome is so wrong," Arinc said.
Atalay said Turkey was expecting the arrival of more rebels from PKK camps in northern Iraq as well as refugees from the Makhmur refugee camp in Iraq, which houses an estimated 10,000-11,000 Turkish Kurds who fled to Iraq in the early 1990s during fighting between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels. Turkish authorities accuse Kurdish guerrillas of indoctrinating children in the camp to become rebels.
The rebels traveled from PKK headquarters in Iraq's Qandil mountains, which have often been bombed by Turkish warplanes in the past. Another group of exiled rebel supporters were expected to arrive in Turkey from Europe next week.
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Associated Press Writer Suzan Fraser contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-17 15:45 GMT+08:00