Kurdish leader calls on PKK to halt violence 'without if or buts'
August 22, 2015 | 8:54 PM
by Agencies
Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) and presidential candidate, speaks during an election rally in Istanbul, August 3, 2014. Turkey will vote for its first directly-elected president on August 10. Reuters

Istanbul/Diyarbakir (Turkey): The leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish political party on Saturday called on Kurdish militants to halt a month of violence against the security forces "without if or buts".

The comments were the clearest call yet from Selahattin Demirtas -- the charismatic young leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) -- for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to agree an unconditional ceasefire.

"The PKK has to stop its armed attacks and bombings in the towns and the mountains without ifs or buts," the Dogan news agency quoted Demirtas, 42, as saying in a speech in the western city of Izmir.

"There is no alternative for us," said Demirtas. "More deaths of Kurds, Turks, soldiers, guerillas and police must be stopped." The government accuses the HDP of being the PKK's political wing but Demirtas has repeatedly insisted that there is distance between the two organisations.

It is unclear if Demirtas' call for an end to violence will have any impact on the PKK, whose leader Abdullah Ocalan is serving a life sentence on a Turkish prison island.

With Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now planning to call snap polls for November 1, the HDP is mindful of not putting off its non-Kurdish secular supporters who opted for the party in inconclusive June 7 polls.

The HDP then easily broke though the 10 per cent threshold needed to win seats in the parliament largely thanks to its success in expanding its support base.

The PKK has been staging daily attacks against the Turkish armed forces as the military keeps up air raids and operations against the group's strongholds in southeast Turkey as well as northern Iraq.

Over 50 members of the Turkish security forces have now been killed in attacks blamed on the PKK, leaving a 2013 ceasefire in tatters.

Demirtas accused Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of "wanting" a civil war in Turkey to boost his own power.

"No one had anything to win from a civil war in Turkey. Just look at Syria and Iraq."

But Demirtas said killing soldiers and police was not the way to bring the AKP to account. "They are also the children of this country, our children," he said.

Erdogan is hoping that that AKP will regain its overall majority in the November 1 polls that it lost on June 7.

But Demirtas said such ambitions would not be realised, forecasting that the AKP would even record the score of almost 41 per cent it saw at the last polls.

Kurdish militants armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles killed a Turkish army captain in an attack on a military outpost in the southeast late on Friday, the latest in clashes which have brought a peace process to the brink of collapse.

Security sources said Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants attacked the outpost in the southeastern province of Sirnak at around 9:30 pm (1830 GMT), prompting an hour-long firefight.

The captain in charge of the outpost died of his injuries in a military hospital hours later.

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