Nicosia Says Cease fire Plea Has Deadline

NICOSIA (Reuters)–Turkey has three weeks to respond to a unilateral cease-fire declared by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or else it will be revoked–its leader was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

"When we announced it there was no deadline–but we are not getting a response," PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan told the Greek Cypriot mass circulation daily Philelephtheros in an interview.

The PKK–fighting for autonomy in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country–declared a cease-fire effective September 1.

Asked how long the group would wait for Turkey’s acceptance–Ocalan said: "Three weeks at most. After that we will take more forceful steps–both militarily and politically."

Ocalan said the group made the offer to test the willingness of Turkey in settling for a political solution to the conflict. Other Kurdish sources have previously said the move was designed to coincide with a change in command in the Turkish army.

Ocalan declared unilateral cease-fires in 1993 and 1995 and has made a series of other calls to halt hostilities. They have been largely ignored by Turkey which refuses to negotiate with the outlawed group.

Ocalan told the newspaper that Ankara had ignored his most recent offer even though there were initial signals it could be willing to accept a cease-fire.

He said Europe should use its influence with Turkey to resolve the conflict. But he was critical of what he described as Europe’s leniency towards Ankara with economic benefits in mind.

"Europe is closing its eyes to the undemocratic regime of Turkey," he said.

Last week a Council of Europe delegation urged Ankara to consider the PKK offer. The country has also come under fire from its western allies in the past for using heavy-handed tactics against Kurdish civilians.

"They (Europe) used to tell us to declare a cease-fire. See–we have done it–but we are not seeing any serious action by Europe," said Ocalan.

Security forces said on Tuesday they had killed 18 Kurds in two days of fighting in the southeast of the country while two of their own troops had died in the battle.

A statement by the office overseeing emergency rule in the southeastern regional capital of Diyarbakir said 12 PKK members were killed in a widescale operation in Hakkari province–close to Turkey’s borders with Iran and Iraq.

The other six Kurds were killed in fire fights in Tunceli–Mardin and Van provinces.

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