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World - Europe

Turkish leader rules out Kurdish autonomy

Ecevit
Ecevit says he will not negotiate with Kurds loyal to Ocalan  
February 21, 1999
Web posted at: 12:29 p.m. EST (1729 GMT)

In this story:

Iraq 'pursuit actions' may resume

Harsh words for Greece

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit on Sunday ruled out the prospect of autonomy for southeastern Turkey, where Kurdish rebels have fought for independence for nearly 15 years.

"A dialogue need not be formed with minority groups who want to partition Turkey," Ecevit said during a news conference.

Ecevit also said he refused to negotiate with rebels loyal to the imprisoned Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkish forces captured Ocalan in Kenya last week and brought him back to Turkey to stand trial on terrorism charges.

Iraq 'pursuit actions' may resume

Last week's Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, aimed at striking PKK bases, has ended, Ecevit said, but he left open the possibility that the Turks could return.

"As long as the authority vacuum continues in northern Iraq, our army feels it necessary periodically to engage in hot pursuit actions," Ecevit said.

Iraq, which has not controlled the remote northern mountain area since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, has objected to the Turkish incursions.

Turkish forces began their strikes at rebel bases in Iraq shortly after Ocalan's capture Monday night. The arrest touched off a wave of protests in several European cities.

Many of the demonstrations were held at Greek embassies because Kurds believed the Greeks had aided in Ocalan's arrest.

Harsh words for Greece

But Ecevit chided Greece for secretly sheltering Ocalan at its embassy in Kenya for two weeks.

"I hope Greek politicians may come to realize that dialogue with Turkey would be a much safer way of addressing common problems than giving support to terrorism," Ecevit said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem called on Greece to explain its actions regarding Ocalan in order to "regain trustworthiness" in the eyes of its Aegean Sea neighbor.

Ocalan, who founded the PKK, is the sole prisoner on an isolated Turkish island where he is being held until his trial. He faces the death penalty if found guilty.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Turkish prime minister offers amnesty to Kurdish rebels
February 20, 1999
Ocalan lawyer says fair trial unlikely in Turkey
February 19, 1999
Turkey stifles Kurdish protests, begins Ocalan interrogation
February 18, 1999
Reports: Ocalan snatched by Turkish commandos
February 17, 1999
Turks jubilant over Ocalan's capture
February 16, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Kurdistan Workers Party Information
The Republic of Turkey
President of the Turkish Republic
The Center for Kurdish Political Studies
Terrorist acts by the PKK
Turkish Press Review: Daily News
Kurdish Information Network
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