Let's Try a Truce
October 2, 2006: Iraq and the US have both said that the Kurdish PKK guerrilla group's "unilateral ceasefire" (announced September 30) has created a new diplomatic opportunity. Turkey, however, remains suspicious that the PKK ceasefire is a "publicity stunt." Still, it is a unilateral ceasefire offer, and Turkish as well as Iraqi leaders played key roles in the diplomatic moves preceding the ceasefire announcement. The most important public diplomatic statement may have been Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's statement on September 26. Talabani said that he believed his government had convinced the PKK "terrorist organization" to declare a ceasefire "within a few days." Subsequently, news reports said that the PKK had conducted a conference on September 24 and 25 where a ceasefire offer was discussed and approved. Talabani also released a trial balloon on September 26. He suggested the possibility of putting one or two American bases in northern Iraq to prevent "foreign interference" (ie, act as a buffer between Turkey and Iraq). The bases Talabani envisioned would be located in Iraqi Kurdistan. However, a permanent US base might lead Kurdish separatists (particularly in Iraq) to conclude the bases indicated a "bilateral" relationship between the US and a "new Kurdistan." A better scenario would be to locate an "enhanced" Iraqi military base in northern Iraq that included US and Turkish observers?and lots of surveillance assets. (Austin Bay)
September 30, 2006: The PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire. The ceasefire would begin on October 1. The PKK ceasefire followed a string of statements by Turkish, Iraqi, and Kurdish rebel leaders. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan (currently in jail in Turkey) also called for a new ceasefire. However, the Turkish government has repeatedly said it is prepared to attack PKK sanctuaries in northern Iraq. The PKK statement said that during the ceasefire the PKK would "not use its weapons" and would confine itself to conducting "logistical" operations (ie, basic supply of its rebel units).
September 29, 2006: Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the PKK to "relinquish its weapons." Erdogan was responding to a statement by PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan had urged the PKK to declare a ceasefire.
Turkish security forces reported killing two PKK guerrillas near in southeast Turkey (Sirnak province). The two were suspected of killing a Turkish policeman in August. Turkish police reported arresting a suspected terrorist in the town of Silvan. The police also seized 15 kilograms of explosive.
September 28, 2006: Iraqi and Turkish sources reported that Turkish security forces fired on a PKK position in northern Iraq. The Turkish security forces fired 30 mortar rounds on a PKK position near the Iraqi town of Zaho.
September 27, 2006: The US encouraged Iraq and Turkey to cooperate on "efforts" to end PKK operations against Turkey. US "special envoy" former USAF General Joseph Ralston said: "It is important for the United States government, the Turkish government and the Iraqi government to cooperate because this is something that is not going to be solved by any one of us alone," The US has promised Turkey that the US will not conduct talks with the PKK. Ralston is now described as an "envoy" or "delegate" not a policy "coordinator." Turkey objected to the term coordinator. Turkish critics suggested that coordinator implied there would be negotiations with the PKK.
September 24, 2006: A Turkish gendarme lieutenant died in a firefight with PKK rebels. The firefight took place in Mardin province (southeastern Turkey). The Turkish border and police security troops were tracking PKK infiltrators
September 23, 2006: A bomb went off in the town of Igdir (eastern Turkey). 17 people were injured, including five police officers. Turkish officials accused the PKK of setting off the bomb. On Sept 25 a PKK spokesman "took responsibility" for the attack. The PKK also attacked a train line near Elazig (also in eastern Turkey). The attack derailed seven railroad cars but caused no casualties. PKK rebels in eastern Turkey regularly attack railroad lines, usually with land mines laid in the rails and occasionally with command detonated mines.
September 18, 2006: The Iraqi government banned "PKK activities" in Iraq.