Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has declared a unilateral cease-fire beginning on October 1 but has warned its continuation depends on Turkey not mounting any operation to "annihilate the organization".
The cease-fire declaration was made my Murat Karayilan, a leading commander of the movement based on the Kandil Mountains in Northern Iraq as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepared to visit the United States on a trip covering various issues including the US role in curbing terrorism targeting Turkey.
"A cease-fire is something done between states" rebuffed the PM before leaving for America, stressing that what Ankara expected from the PKK was the laying down of arms. He added, however, that there was no reason for Turkey to "conduct operations out of nowhere if they do lay down arms".
Yet, according to Karayilan who held a press conference to mark the cease-fire, the group does not intend to lay down arms. It will shoot back "only in the case where our forces are targeted" according to Karayilan. But it will refrain from conducting military operations.
The cease-fire comes after a few weeks of repeated appeals from various circles for the PKK to stop violence and allow for the process of a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem.
On September 11, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) issued a statement calling on the organization to declare a cease-fire, followed on September 12 by a public statement undersigned by over 200 Kurdish and Turkish intellectuals titled "enough is enough" saying the PKK should end violence unconditionally.
During the buildup to PM Erdogan's US visit, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani who has in the past played central roles in PKK cease-fires issued a statement saying that they had convinced the organization to another cease-fire.
Last week, just before the weekend, the organization's imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan made a final appeal for the movement to stop organized attacks. In the statement made public by his visiting lawyers, held in isolation on Imrali island in the Sea of Marmara which has become his one-man prison, Ocalan even agreed that state forces might need to conduct operations for security.
Both Ocalan and Karaduman's condition for a continuation of the cease-fire appeared to be Turkey not attacking the PKK with the intention of "annihilating" it.
Turkish PM Erdogan is expected to meet President George Bush on Monday and discuss the situation in the region including US policies on the PKK and its affiliated groups in northern Iraq. (II/YE)