Turkey rejects Kurdish offer of ceasefire

Turkey today rejected a ceasefire announced by Kurdish rebels and continued with its troop build-up on the border with Iraq.

Turkey today rejected a ceasefire announced by Kurdish rebels and continued with its troop build-up on the border with Iraq.

Turkey's foreign minister Ali Babacan, in Baghdad to urge Iraq to crack down on the guerrillas, said it was not possible to deal with a terrorist organisation.

The increased diplomatic activity followed Sunday's rebel ambush near the Iraqi border that left 12 Turkish soldiers dead, 16 wounded and eight missing.

"We also don't wish our historical and friendly ties with Iraq to be ruined because of a terrorist organisation," Mr Babacan said at a joint news conference after meeting Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

"On the other hand, we are expecting support from international community and our neighbours in struggle against terrorism."

Babacan said rebel attacks left 42 people dead this month alone.

But he rejected any offer of a ceasefire by the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, which is based in in the mountainous border area in northern Iraq.

"Ceasefires are possible between states and regular forces," Babacan said. "The problem here is that we're dealing with a terrorist organisation."

The PKK has called on Turkey not to attack Iraq, claiming that a unilateral rebel ceasefire declared in June was still in place although it did not halt fighting.

"The position of the PKK is that we have agreed to a ceasefire but when we are attacked by the Turkish troops we will hit back," rebel spokesman Abdul-Rahman al-Chadarchi said today.

He also confirmed that the rebels were holding eight Turkish soldiers captive and promised to treat them well, although he said it was "premature" to discuss conditions for their release.

Mr Zebari, himself a Kurd, called the latest crisis "complex and grave" and expressed hope that a diplomatic push would help stave off any cross-border raids by Turkey, which Iraqi and US leaders have warned would threaten the relative peace in northern Iraq, the one stable area in the war-torn country.

But Mr Babacan said the US and Iraq had promised to deal with the rebels in the past to no avail.

"The problem did not go away but the problem got worse. Right now, Turkey as a whole is very annoyed and concerned about what is going on and the public reaction in Turkey is huge," he said.

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