Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

With Rebels on Run, Turkey Gets Tougher A Successful Army Offensive and Arrest of a Kurd Leader May Undermine Hopes for a Negotiated End to a Guerrilla War

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

With Rebels on Run, Turkey Gets Tougher A Successful Army Offensive and Arrest of a Kurd Leader May Undermine Hopes for a Negotiated End to a Guerrilla War

Article excerpt

Turkey seems to have won the upper hand in its long and costly war against a Kurd separatist movement. And amid new military gains against the rebel group PKK, or Kurdish Workers Party, Turkey's position has only hardened.

The prospect of a negotiated settlement with the group, which seeks a homeland for the region's ethnic Kurds, including 12 million in Turkey, appears to have faded.

Turkey is a key NATO ally that has increasingly sought to cement its special relationship with the United States, particularly since being snubbed earlier this year for membership in the European Union. The EU cited human rights concerns - including questions about Turkey's treatment of Kurds - as a reason it was not admitted. The recent capture of a top PKK commander, Semdin Sakik, came amid an offensive in which Turkey's Army also claims to have killed scores of rebels in Turkey's southeast. 'Brink of collapse' "The PKK has received a severe blow and is on the brink of total collapse," said a senior member of the Army's general staff April 17, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Now it is up to the government and other civilian organizations to resolve the region's economic and social problems, which are the real cause of the violence," he said. Another military source, asked whether the "defeat" of the PKK might encourage Turkish authorities to listen to recent PKK overtures for a settlement, was blunt: "No one in Turkey would agree to negotiate with terrorists," he said. "We have always resisted any contacts with the PKK, and now that they are crumbling, there cannot be any question of ... acceptance of their conditions." A call has gone up among liberal Turks, however, to go beyond economic and social reform in the region. There is debate over allowing Kurds to use their language in education, broadcasting, and official contacts. …

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