ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group called on its fighters to halt guerrilla activities in Turkey unless they face an attack, a news website close to the group said on Saturday, three months after it ended a two-year-old ceasefire.
The leadership of a PKK umbrella group said the decision was taken in response to calls from in and outside Turkey and that its fighters would avoid acts which could prevent a “fair and just election” being held on Nov. 1, Firat news agency reported.
The announcement came hours after at least 30 people were killed when twin explosions hit a rally of hundreds of pro-Kurdish and leftist activists at Ankara’s main train station in what the government said was a terrorist attack.
“Our movement has decided to put our guerrilla forces in a stance of non-activity for as long as there are no attacks on our people or guerrilla forces,” the PKK statement said.
The PKK move had been signalled by a top commander in a newspaper column several days ago and was expected to be welcomed by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which is aiming to retain its place in parliament in the vote.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan had already dismissed the anticipated ceasefire declaration as a “tactic” ahead of the election, reiterating government demands that the militants lay down arms and leave Turkey.
The PKK decision came hours after PKK militants detonated roadside explosives in Diyarbakir, damaging an armoured police vehicle and killing one police officer, security sources said.
The PKK’s 31-year-old conflict with the state erupted anew in July, when Turkey launched air strikes on militant camps in response to attacks on its security forces, ending a March 2013 ceasefire. Hundreds have been killed in the latest fighting.
Ankara has declared a series of curfews and military zones in the southeast, but a bid to relocate polling stations away from conflict areas - potentially making it difficult for some voters to cast ballots - was rejected by the election board.
The PKK has announced a series of ceasefires in the past, including ahead of elections, often with a view to engaging in negotiations. Turkey’s army does not declare ceasefires.
Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. The state launched peace talks with its jailed leader in 2012.
Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall