POSTED: 2:30 a.m. HST, Jul 19, 2013
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish rebels on Friday gave Turkey a "final warning" to take steps that would move forward peace talks aimed at ending a 30-year old conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The Kurdistan Workers Party, which is known as PKK and has been fighting Turkey for autonomy, declared a cease-fire in March and began withdrawing fighters from Turkey in May as part of peace efforts initiated last year.
Turkey is expected to enact a series of reforms to improve Kurdish rights as part of the efforts.
The rebels have called on Turkey to start introducing the reforms as part of the bargain. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which insists it is committed to the peace process, maintains the rebel's retreat from the Turkish territory into bases in northern Iraq is not yet complete.
"Our movement is giving the ... government a final warning," read a rebel statement carried by Firat news agency, which is close to the rebels. "In the event that concrete steps are not taken at the shortest time, the process will not advance and the government will be held responsible."
It did not say what the group would do if their demands are not met.
Any restart of the fighting would be an added headache for Erdogan. Last month tens of thousands of people held the largest anti-government protests in decades to denounce what they said is his increasing authoritarian streak and efforts to impose conservative religious views on society.
Adding to Turkish concerns, Kurdish fighters in Syria have taken control of a major town near the border with Turkey. The forces of a Syrian Kurdish party that is close to the PKK, have battled rebels from radical Islamic groups for control of the town of Ras al-Ain for days.
Stray bullets from the fighting have landed in a Turkish town in recent days, killing one teenager and injuring at least four other people.
The Turkish military said it had retaliated to the fire on Wednesday and Firat said the military had targeted Syrian Kurdish positions in Ras al-Ain.