ANKARA (Reuters)–Kudistan Workers Party (PKK) members–issuing a direct challenge to Ankara–declared on Thursday they would obey a call by their leader Abdullah Ocalan to abandon a 14-year-old armed struggle and pull out of Turkey.
If the PKK withdraw from the mountains and valleys of eastern Turkey–the country’s army–scenting victory–must decide whether to harry them on the long march to hideouts in northern Iraq and possibly Iran. Certainly–politicians have shown no interest in talks.
Commen’s by President Suleyman Demirel suggested there was no change of approach in prospect.
"Orders such as ‘carry on the struggle’ or ‘stop it’ in no way affect or remove the state’s determination in this struggle," Anatolian news agency quoted him as saying. "The state has no need of anything to finish off this struggle."
Earlier this week–Ocalan issued a statement from his island jail ordering the PKK "to end the armed struggle and withdraw their forces outside the borders of Turkey–for the sake of peace–from September 1–1999."
Ocalan’s call went further than short-lived cease-fires of the past–but fell short of asking the rebels to lay down arms. The government responded coolly and said it would never negotiate.
"Our party openly declares its full compliance with comrade General Chairman Abdullah Ocalan’s August 2 statement and will carry out all of its activities on this basis," the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said in a statement carried by the German-based Kurdish news agency DEM.
Turkey did not heed Kurdish cease-fires last year and in 1993–viewing them as tactical ruses–and has so far not balked at striking by air and ground at Kurdish bases in northern Iraq.
The PKK–hit hard by a resolute Turkish military campaign–has training and supply bases inside the Kurdish-held enclave of northern Iraq and–Turkey says–inside Iran.
The Kurds have re-elected Ocalan their leader even though he has been held on Imrali prison island since his capture by Turkish special forces in Kenya in February. Effective control is in the hands of a group of field commanders at large in Iraq and Iran–not all of whom may comply with the decision.
Turkish forces are a continuous presence in northern Iraq–attacking PKK groupings there. Turkey recently quarreled with Iran over bombing raids which Tehran’said hit Iranian territory. Turkish generals said the rebels had bases in Iran.
Previous shelters in Syria appear to be unavailable to the Kurdss after Damascus bowed to Turkish threats last year and expelled the PKK and Ocalan from its territory.