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 PKK rebels ready to swap five Turkish prisoners with Turkey

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PKK rebels ready to swap five Turkish prisoners with Turkey  18.3.2012  

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas, the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms. See Related Links
March 18, 2012

ERBIL-Hewlęr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — A Turkish Kurdish rebel group with bases in Iraqi Kurdistan's border area with Turkey said on Saturday it would release five Turkish nationals it kidnapped last year if Ankara would agree to a prisoner exchange.

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) spokesman Bakhtiar Doran said the five -- a town mayor, a policeman and three Turkish soldiers -- were snatched last year, but did not specify the date of their kidnap, or provide their names.

"We have in our hands a mayor, a policeman and three Turkish soldiers," a PKK statement attributed to Doran said.

"The PKK is treating these prisoners according to the Geneva Convention, and we will not release them without official agreement with the Turkish government on a prisoner exchange."

Doran told AFP by telephone that the group were kidnapped last year, but declined to give further details.

The PKK said in September that it detained a number of "military officials, a town mayor and 12 teachers", but did not give specifics. It was not immediately clear if the group of five were among those kidnapped in September.

The statement, which made reference to an October deal in which Israel freed more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was snatched by Gaza-based militants in June 2006, said: "If Turkey wants these prisoners released, it must take serious steps.

"The Turkish government has not carried out any efforts until now to release them."

Fighting between Turkish forces and PKK rebels has escalated in recent months.

In October, Turkey launched a major air and land offensive against the rebels in the southeast of the country and in neighboring northern Iraq after 24 of its troops were killed in a night-time ambush by rebels.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP | | Agencies 


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