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Kurdish rebels warn Turkey on pace of peace talks

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 19, 2013 at 9:11 am •  Published: July 19, 2013

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish rebels on Friday gave Turkey a "final warning" to take steps that would move forward peace talks aimed at ending a 30-year old conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The Kurdistan Workers Party, which is known as PKK and has been fighting Turkey for autonomy, did not say what it would do if its demand was not met — or if it planned to resume fighting. The warning came at a time when concerns are high over Syrian Kurdish forces taking control of areas in Syria near the border with Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday Turkey would take all necessary measures against threats to its border while Turkey's military this week retaliated to stray bullets fired from across the frontier as the Syrian Kurdish fighters battled Syrian rebels for control of a major town in northern Syria. Turkish fighter jets, meanwhile, were engaged in reconnaissance flights over the frontier area with Syria, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The PKK declared a cease-fire in March and began withdrawing fighters from Turkey into bases in northern Iraq in May, as part of peace efforts initiated last year. Turkey is expected to enact a series of reforms to improve the rights of Kurds in the country as part of the efforts.

The rebels and Kurdish politicians have repeatedly called on Turkey to start introducing the reforms. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which insists it is committed to the peace process, maintains the rebel's retreat from the Turkish territory into bases in northern Iraq is not yet complete.

"Our movement is giving the ... government a final warning," read a rebel statement carried by Firat news agency, which is close to the rebels. "In the event that concrete steps are not taken at the shortest time, the process will not advance and the government will be held responsible."

The statement said the government was expected to initiate reforms to boost the rights of Kurds as of June 1 and accused it of failing to carry out "its duties." It also accused the government of "sabotaging" peace efforts by refusing to allow an independent group of doctors to visit the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan on his prison island off Istanbul and of delaying meetings between him and a group of Kurdish politicians who are involved in the peace process.

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