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Turkey:Peace steps falter on deadly attack

NationalANKARA - A PKK landmine kills six soldiers, sending the Turkish military on a brief offensive and many leading politicians ducking for cover under the same comment: The PKK needs to lay down its arms before a consensus can be sought.

With the country engrossed in finding the basic parameters for a solution to the long-standing Kurdish problem, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has exploded a landmine in the southeastern part of the country and killed six Turkish soldiers.

Eight Turkish soldiers, one of them in serious condition, were also injured in the blast, which occurred late Wednesday when the soldiers' military vehicle struck a remote controlled landmine on a road in the Çukurca district in the southeastern province of Hakkari. The blast was the heaviest toll suffered by Turkish soldiers since a bomb explosion killed nine soldiers at the end of April.

Turkish troops, backed by helicopters, launched an offensive near the Iraqi border against PKK terrorists after the blast. The Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in the Zap and Avasin-Basian regions in northern Iraq, the General Staff said in a later statement. All planes returned to their bases safely and the operation was successful. The jets only targeted the terrorist organization and paid the utmost attention not to harm civilians, military said.

The terrorist attack has come at a time when hope for resolving Turkey’s decade’s long Kurdish problem is being voiced by many leading politicians, including President Abdullah Gül.

Gül was the first to voice optimistic hopes in March when he said there was a historical opportunity to resolve the problem and that the nation should expect "nice things" to happen on the Kurdish issue. He also said all the political parties in Parliament had a responsibility on the issue, calling them to contribute to solving the problem.

His emphasis on his remarks of historic opportunity and describing the Kurdish issue as the "No. 1 problem" on Turkey’s agenda, were welcomed by senior Kurdish politicians, many of whom agreed that Gül opened new prospects on the issue. Gül's idea of a "historic opportunity" had also been reinforced by acting PKK leader Murat Karayılan who said in an interview with daily Milliyet at the beginning of May that "the PKK is in a better position now. In the past, it wanted an independent Kurdish state, but that is not the case any longer."
"We want to live in the Republic of Turkey as equal and free citizens," he told Milliyet.

Amid rising hopes for a possible "new consensus," Wednesday’s attack has led many leading politicians to revolve around the same comment that the PKK laying down arms should be a precondition if a consensus is to be sought.

Gül said Turkey was in an all-out fight against terrorism but the use of violence, which came at a time when all were demonstrating good will in finding a solution to the problem, remained the biggest challenge standing before efforts to raise the standards of Turkish democracy, speaking to reporters yesterday in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek where he has been on an official visit. The Kurdish issue is everyone’s problem, he said.

"Using landmines is the dirtiest type of terror," he said, also calling for widespread condemnation of terror.

Echoing Gül’s remarks, Ahmet Türk, the co-chairman of the Pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, said people who favored a democratic solution must take their finger off the trigger.

"We cannot solve any problems because we have not stopped the killings," he said in a written statement yesterday.

Noting that for weeks he has called for an end to military operations against the PKK, he said: "However, our efforts have not worked. The military operations have neither slowed nor have the [PKK] attacks stopped," he said.

Primary condition

Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal yesterday listed terror members’ laying down their guns as the first condition for amnesty, signaling an important opening in his party's approach to the issue. "Otherwise amnesty is out of question," Baykal said, speaking to private NTV television channel in Mardin.

Baykal’s remarks came as Turkish officials signaled work to be underway to end the PKK terror activities and solve the decades-long Kurdish issue in a democratic and peaceful way. The CHP has traditionally been against offering any amnesty to terrorists.

He said an amnesty could be launched when the PKK made it clear that it would assert its demands within the boundaries of democracy and the law.

"There mustn't be guns on the table. There must be pens, paper and ideas on the table," he said.

Hopes for a possible end to the Kurdish issue have been on the rise in recent times after encouraging remarks from a wide range of senior-level politicians including the president and the opposition party leader.

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