Last updated: 28 August, 2011

Senior Iraqi Kurd calls on rebels to lay down arms

The deputy chief of the most powerful political party in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region has called on separatist groups in the area to lay down their arms in an interview published on Sunday.

Iraqi Kurdistan-based fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) carry out periodic deadly attacks in Turkey, while the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) does the same in Iran. The attacks have triggered air strikes and aerial bombardments by Ankara’s and Tehran’s forces respectively.

“I believe that PJAK must take the crucial decision to abandon its armed struggle and lay down its weapons,” Nechirvan Barzani, who in addition to being deputy leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is also the nephew of the region’s president, said in an interview published in the Kurdish weekly Rudaw.

Barzani, who is also the region’s ex-prime minister, also made a more qualified call for the PKK to cease its armed attacks.

“The Turkish government needs to pursue a policy of openness and democracy, and within this policy, (the PKK) must put down its weapons, as it must undertake a civil and parliamentary struggle in Turkey,” Barzani said.

Both the PKK and PJAK have been the target of recent military campaigns carried out, respectively, by Turkey and Iran.

The Turkish military began a bombing campaign on August 17 against PKK targets in Iraq after a rebel attack against a military unit in southeast Turkey that killed nine Turkish security personnel.

And Iranian troops on July 16 launched a major offensive against PJAK bases, losing at least eight Revolutionary Guards, including a senior officer, in clashes on the border.

Both campaigns have since ceased.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

PJAK rebels have also been involved in years of deadly clashes with Iranian troops.