October 9, 2015 / 9:02 AM / 4 years ago

Turkey dismisses potential PKK ceasefire as 'tactic'

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan has dismissed the prospect of a ceasefire declaration by Kurdish militants as a “tactic” ahead of a Nov. 1 election, reiterating government demands that the militants lay down arms and leave Turkey.

Masked members of YDG-H, youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), shout slogans as they hold a portrait of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)'s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in Diyarbakir, Turkey, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

The Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) 31-year-old conflict with the state erupted anew in July, when Turkey launched air strikes on militant camps in response to rising attacks on its security forces, ending a ceasefire declared in March 2013.

A senior PKK figure hinted in a newspaper column this week at a ceasefire as a way to bolster the election prospects of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which deprived the ruling AKP of its single-party majority in a June parliamentary election.

But Akdogan, who is in charge of the Kurdish dossier for the government, dismissed any such move as an electoral gambit.

“We have often seen the terror group resorting to such political tactics when it is cornered, heading to its winter shelters or to benefit its political extension,” he told the Haberturk TV channel on Thursday evening.

“We are fed up with that. You burn and destroy everything, you oppress and kill people, launch a war on the state ... then say you don’t want election security to be negatively affected,” he said, reiterating a call for the militants to leave Turkey.

Hundreds have been killed in the latest fighting.

The conflict has further clouded the political outlook in Turkey after June’s inconclusive vote, while the conflict in neighbouring Syria intensifies.

HDP deputy Ertugrul Kurkcu told Reuters a ceasefire would prevent the ruling AK Party from exploiting the security situation to impose restricted military zones and debunk AKP allegations that people vote for the HDP under PKK pressure.

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 and Hugh Lawson

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