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Pro-Kurdish Party Leader Calls for Halt to Violence in Turkey

  • Reuters

Protesters wave flags with the picture of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)'s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan during a demonstration against the Turkish army operations on Kurdish militants, in central Brussels, Belgium, Aug. 8, 2015.

Protesters wave flags with the picture of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)'s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan during a demonstration against the Turkish army operations on Kurdish militants, in central Brussels, Belgium, Aug. 8, 2015.

The leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish party called on Saturday for the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to "remove its finger from the trigger" and for the government to halt a surge in violence by launching talks.

The PKK announced it was stepping up attacks in mid-July over what it said were violations by Turkish forces of a 2013 cease-fire. The violence worsened when Turkey began an air campaign against PKK camps in northern Iraq on July 24.

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas was speaking a day after six people were killed in clashes between security forces and militants in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Cease-fire

"Today we call to both sides: the PKK must immediately remove its finger from the trigger and declare it will observe the cease-fire," Demirtas told reporters in the southeastern city of Van.

He said the government must halt security operations and declare itself ready for dialogue.

Demirtas' HDP won 13 percent of the vote in a June 7 parliamentary election. He has considerable influence among the party's grassroots Kurdish supporters, most of whom are sympathetic to the PKK.

The flare-up in violence comes at a time of political uncertainty in Turkey. A coalition has yet to be established, raising the possibility of a snap election.

FILE - Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party leader Selahattin Demirtas speaks to the media about Turkey's airstrikes against Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq, in Ankara, Turkey, July 27, 2015.

FILE - Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party leader Selahattin Demirtas speaks to the media about Turkey's airstrikes against Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq, in Ankara, Turkey, July 27, 2015.

"A coalition may be formed or not but peace is urgent. Mr. Davutoglu, we are not requesting this from you. You are obliged to do it," Demirtas said in comments addressed to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Ankara launched a peace process with the PKK in late 2012 and a cease-fire declared in 2013 had largely held until now.

IS targets

As well as PKK targets, Turkish jets have hit Islamic State positions in Syria. Ankara has also allowed the U.S.-led coalition targeting the Islamic State militants to use its air bases.

On Friday evening militants fired a rocket at an armored car in the town of Cizre, killing a police officer and wounding another, security sources said.

Earlier that day, three people were killed and seven wounded during clashes between police and PKK in the town of Silopi, like Cizre in Sirnak province, close to Turkey's borders with Syria and Iraq.

In two other separate incidents in Van and Agri provinces, militants killed two soldiers, bringing the death toll among Turkish security forces since July 20 to at least 21.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union, launched its insurgency in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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