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--Turkey's Top Brass Urges PKK to Quit Decades-Old Armed Struggle

--Turkey's Wealth Can Be Shared by All

Turkey's top military commander on Monday called on Kurdish rebels to lay down their arms in a speech in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast that coincides with government efforts to broaden rights of minority Kurds. In a step aimed at addressing grievances by Kurds who have long complained of political and cultural discrimination at the hands of authorities, a state theatre in the Kurdish southeast will stage a play partly in the once-banned Kurdish language for the first time in the European Union candidate country. General Ilker Basbug, addressing troops in the city of Mardin, said Turkey was ready to "share its wealth" among all Turks to end a decades-long separatist conflict driven by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). "We cannot reach a solution with guns and blood. The only solution is that the terrorist organization lays down its weapons," Basbug said.

Although it was not the first time the army had called on the PKK to abandon violence, the timing and location were significant. Basbug's conciliatory words come as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party faces resistance from opposition parties as it pursues steps to expand Kurdish rights and create jobs in the poverty-stricken region. The main opposition secularist party, which traditionally sides with the powerful military and accuses Erdogan of having a hidden Islamist agenda, has rejected a government initiative towards Kurds, arguing Turkey's unity was at stake.

However, Basbug also warned the military will continue fighting the PKK, a group branded terrorists by Ankara, Washington and the EU. Last week, the army requested an extension of the mandate to launch operations against PKK rebels in northern Iraq. The mandate, first approved by parliament in 2007, expires in October. Turkish media has said there is concern in Ankara that extending the mandate may harm the reform process.
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Title Annotation:Today's News Highlights
Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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