Kurdish separatists announce unilateral ceasefire

Kurdish Workers' PartyAnkara - The separatist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) on Monday announced a unilateral ceasefire to last until June 1, the PKK-linked Firat news agency reported. A statement released by PKK political commanders in Iraq, said that the time was ripe for a political solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey, noting that the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) had done extremely well in local elections on March 29.

"The result of the elections were very clear - that it is necessary for democratization in Turkey and a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem," the statement said.

The statement called on not just Turkish armed forces but for Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq and the United States to respect the ceasefire.

The PKK has announced a number of unilateral ceasefires in the past but the Turkish government has refused to recognize any of them.

The Turkish military suspects there are as many as 5,000 PKK fighters holed up in northern Iraq bases from which they launch operations into Turkey. Turkey regularly launches bombing raids on suspected PKK bases in the region.

Ankara blames the separatist group for the deaths of more than 35,000 people since the early 1980s when the PKK began its fight for independence or autonomy for the mainly Kurdish-populated south-east of Turkey.

The PKK is considered by the US and the European Union to be a terrorist group. (dpa)