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Turkey on defense despite PKK truce

March 26, 2013 at 9:35 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, March 26 (UPI) -- Turkey's armed forces will honor their legislative duty to protect against threats from Kurdish separatists, the country's military said.

The Turkish military denied claims in Turkish media that it halted operations against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, in late 2012.

"The Turkish armed forces are continuing its duty within the scope of the legislation," a statement published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet read.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan issued a letter last week calling on rebel forces to lay down their weapons and leave the country. The PKK has waged war against the Turkish government since the 1980s.

Acting PKK leader Murat Karayilan this week was quoted by Today's Zaman as saying "militants have the right to self-defense and to retaliate."

He warned the cease-fire wouldn't hold unless it was respected by both sides.

The Turkish Interior Ministry last year called for bounties of as much as $2.6 million for several of top PKK leaders, including Karayilan.

The U.S. and Turkish governments categorize the PKK as a terrorist organization. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the opportunity for peace, however.

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