Kurdish PKK rebels 'halt Turkey pull-out'

PKK fighters - file pic The PKK has long operated from mountain bases in northern Iraq

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The rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) says it has halted its withdrawal from Turkey, a website linked to the armed militant group reports.

The PKK accused the Turkish government of failing to move towards "democratisation and the resolution of the Kurdish problem", the Firat news agency reported.

The PKK had started the withdrawal earlier this year, under a peace plan.

The 30-year Kurdish conflict has left more than 40,000 people dead.

The PKK said the ceasefire it announced in March would remain in force. But it urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to "take action in line with the project of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan", the jailed PKK commander who negotiated the peace deal.

Ankara insists on a full PKK withdrawal for peace talks to progress.

Under the deal, Turkey is expected to improve Kurdish rights, such as by scrapping a controversial anti-terrorism law and allowing Kurdish children to be educated in their own language.

Analysis

For the last 30 years, the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK has dominated life in this country.

It's no particular surprise that the peace process has now run into trouble. At its heart, the two sides are trying to reconcile different visions of the nature of the Turkish state.

The PKK wants the rights of the ethnic Kurdish citizens of Turkey to be formally recognised. In particular, it wants to secure the right to education and justice in the Kurdish language, as well as an amnesty for PKK fighters.

The ruling AK Party has promised some reforms - but not a general amnesty. The PKK now accuses the government of delays and broken promises.

For that reason, the PKK has stopped its withdrawal. But crucially, at least for the moment, the organisation's ceasefire remains in place. That may give negotiators the chance to explore ways of restarting both the peace process and the pullout.

The anti-terrorism law has been used to jail thousands of people for alleged links to the PKK.

'Irresponsible attitude'

The PKK took up arms in 1984 with the aim of creating a Kurdish state in south-eastern Turkey, but it has now moderated its goal to regional autonomy.

It has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Kurds are believed to make up about a fifth of Turkey's population.

The PKK statement accused Ankara of "an irresponsible attitude" towards the peace process "by giving no answer to the steps of the Kurdish liberation movement".

It also accused Turkey of building new military posts and dams in Kurdish areas, of failing to release PKK prisoners or scrap the anti-terrorism law and of not consulting Kurds about the democratisation plans.

On the Kurdish language issue, it said it saw "no evidence" of any Turkish commitment to providing education in Kurdish children's mother tongue.

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