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Thursday, October 22, 2009     GET REAL

Turkey's leader claims Kurdish insurgents are ready to surrender

ANKARA — Turkey is anticipating that Kurdish insurgents will defect in increasing numers from the Kurdish Workers Party in Iraq.   

Officials said the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has been wooing PKK insurgents away from their commanders in northern Iraq. They said up to 200 insurgents could defect from PKK bases in Iraq's Kandil mountains by the end of 2009, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Something is happening in Turkey, which gives us hope," Erdogan said.

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"Let me stress that the [PKK] fighters in the mountains see that their way is a dead end," Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay said.

On Oct. 20, the first group of PKK insurgents defected and surrendered to Turkish authorities. The so-called peace group crossed from Iraq into Turkey, and within hours was released by authorities.

"We expect this to continue," Atalay said. "We expect 100 or 150 people to return in small groups."

Atalay did not provide a timetable for the expected surrender. But he said an increasing number of PKK insurgents have reached the conclusion that they were no longer safe in northern Iraq from Turkish military operations.

"We are working on their leaders," Atalay said.

Officials said the PKK has been racked by divisions, with hundreds of fighters defecting in 2009. They said the PKK leadership has taken draconian measures to prevent unauthorized leaves from bases. About 3,000 PKK fighters were said to be deployed in the Kandil mountains.

For its part, the PKK denied that its fighters were surrendering to Ankara. A senior Kurdish commander said the group that arrived in Turkey was actually sent by the PKK leadership to discuss a ceasefire.

"How could they [PKK fighters] come down from the mountains if the mentality does not change in Turkey, if the Kurdish will and identity is not accepted and if Kurds are unable to organize and express themselves?" PKK commander Cemil Bayik said.

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