World

Turkish government not ready to restart peace talks with Kurds

Turkish jets hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq overnight and the government said strikes would continue until the rebels lay down their arms, despite calls Wednesday by the pro-Kurdish opposition for an immediate end to the violence and the resumption of peace efforts.

Turkish warplanes hit positions belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party

A missile-loaded Turkish warplane rises in the sky after taking off from Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey, on Wednesday. (Emrah Gurel/Associated Press)

Turkish jets hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq overnight and the government said strikes would continue until the rebels lay down their arms, despite calls Wednesday by the pro-Kurdish opposition for an immediate end to the violence and the resumption of peace efforts.

Turkish jets hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq overnight and the government said strikes would continue until the rebels lay down their arms, despite calls Wednesday by the pro-Kurdish opposition for an immediate end to the violence and the resumption of peace efforts.

Turkey's air raids against the Kurdish rebels, which came at the same time as Turkey began cracking down on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are reigniting a 30-year conflict with the insurgents and leave a two-year-old, fragile peace process in pieces.

The airstrikes on ISIS follow intense U.S. pressure on Turkey to more actively join a coalition against the extremists, but Turkey's actions against the Kurdish rebel group pose a conundrum for U.S. President Barack Obama, who is relying heavily on the insurgents as allies in Syria.

In the latest raid, Turkish warplanes pounded about half a dozen positions belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a government statement said. Locations included the group's mountainous stronghold in Qandil.

PKK spokesman Bakhtyar Dogan said the airstrikes lasted for three hours and caused "a lot of damage." He had no casualty figures.

Turkish warplanes last week began striking ISIS targets in Syria in response to an ISIS suicide bombing in southern Turkey that left 32 people dead, and another attack on Turkish forces, which killed a soldier.

The PKK is affiliated with forces battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Kurds have been among the most effective ground forces in the fight against ISIS and have been backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears a revival of the Kurdish insurgency in pursuit of an independent state.

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani, in this Jan. 30, 2015 photo. Turkey says airstrikes against Kurdish targets will continue until (Associated Press)

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, called for the peace process to resume. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, rejected the call, saying that would not happen until the party distances itself from the rebels and the PKK withdraws its armed fighters from Turkey's territory.

"We'll respond to their call the day they can condemn PKK terrorism the way they condemn DAESH terrorism," Davutoglu said, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group. "Until they do that they are guilty in our eyes and in the eyes of the people."

Demirtas' call came at the same time that a prosecutor demanded that the politician's parliamentary immunity be lifted so that he can be prosecuted for insulting the ruling party.

Turkey and its western allies consider the PKK a terrorist organization. Since 2012, however, Turkey had been negotiating with the group's imprisoned leader for a peaceful settlement of the 30-year conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The rebels have attacked a major oil pipeline from Iraq, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday, a day after they also attacked a gas pipeline from Iran. Yildiz said authorities immediately cut off the oil flow, minimizing the possible damage and loss.

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