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Iraq rejects Turkish plea for intervention against rebels

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iraqi government rejects Turkey's calls for intervention against the PKK
  • The PKK has been battling the Turkish government since the early 1980s
  • Turkey says it expects more help from Iraq
  • PKK considered terror group by U.S., Turkey and European Union
RELATED TOPICS
  • Iraq
  • Turkey
  • Kurdistan

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi government on Friday said it rejected Turkey's calls for intervention in its conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

Iraq's role is as part of a joint security committee with Turkey and the United States to find "appropriate mechanisms" to deal with the PKK threat, and not "playing policeman," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

The PKK has been battling the Turkish government since the early 1980s.

It has stepped up attacks on Turkish military targets after ending its unilateral cease-fire on June 1. In the last two weeks, 22 soldiers, four village guards and two civilians have been killed by the PKK.

Turkey has said it expects more from Iraq to stem the the attacks. The United States, Iraq and Turkey continue to exchange intelligence regarding the issue.

Initially, the PKK movement fought to carve out a separate homeland for Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority, which makes up nearly 18 percent of the Turkish population, according to the CIA World Factbook.

More than 30,000 people, mostly ethnic Kurds, have been killed during the conflict.

In recent years, the rebels say they have given up their demands for an independent Kurdish state, and are instead fighting for more linguistic and cultural freedoms.

Though the Kurds represent Turkey's largest ethnic minority, their language has historically been suppressed by the Turkish state, which long referred to Kurds as "mountain Turks."

The upsurge in fighting threatens a recent, much-heralded Turkish government initiative aimed at improving relations with the Kurds.

The so-called "democratic opening" included the creation of a Kurdish-language state TV station and pledged to allow "Kurdish studies" for the first time in Turkey at the university level.

But PKK leaders have questioned the sincerity of this initiative.

In a news release e-mailed to CNN, the group explained why it had ended its ceasefire and started a mid-intensity war in June.

The release said the government was cracking down on peaceful political protests and claimed Kurdish children and elected Kurdish politicians were being jailed without just cause as part of the "Political Genocide of the Kurdish people."