Turkey’s Kurdish ceasefire breaks down

October 22, 2013

Kurdish insurgents in Iraq threaten to resume fighting in Turkey, the U.S. and Afghanistan have yet to agree on security pact, and Brunei prepares to enforce sharia criminal law. Today is Tuesday, October 22, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Cemil Bayik, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Qandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkey border, October 19, 2013.REUTERS/Stringer

Return to arms. Members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Iraq are ready to abandon a ceasefire with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in their native Turkey, threatening to restart an insurgency within its borders if Ankara does not step up its peacemaking efforts:

Imprisoned on an island south of Istanbul, [Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah] Ocalan commands unswerving loyalty from a fervent cadre of guerillas – both men and women – who live in the mountains that straddle the borders between Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Ocalan began talks with Turkish officials last year to halt a conflict that has left more than 40,000 people dead over the past three decades and earned the PKK a place on a list of terrorist organizations as designated by Turkey, the United States and European Union. In March, a ceasefire was called and Ocalan ordered his guerillas to retreat from Turkey to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, but the withdrawal was suspended last month as the rebels said Ankara had not held up its side of the bargain.

Last month, Erdogan introduced a reform package that would make it easier for Kurds to maintain their heritage in Turkey, but the PKK said the efforts – which include amendments to the electoral process and increased language rights – were superficial, demanding guaranteed rights for Kurds and a reconsideration of anti-terror laws that have placed thousands in jail. The PKK also accuses Turkey of using the conflict in Syria to fight a proxy war against Kurds by arming rebels who fight them in the neighboring country’s northern region, a claim Turkey has denied. Erdogan’s push for peace with Kurdish insurgents has helped his bid for accession to the EU, which has been put on hold in recent years but will be revisited next month. Click through for a timeline of Turkey-Kurdish relations from 1978 through March, 2013, when the PKK agreed to stop fighting Turkey’s army.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gestures as he speaks during a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (R) at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, October 12, 2013. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

Kabul conference inconclusive. The U.S. and Afghanistan have not yet agreed on a security pact that would provide a roadmap for U.S. troop withdrawal from the country:

For almost a year, Washington and Kabul have been seeking to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will help determine how many U.S. soldiers and bases remain in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops exit by the end of next year. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at the end of a visit to Kabul this month that there was just one issue outstanding – Washington’s demand that its troops be immune from Afghan law and tried in the United States instead. But this request was not even raised in the two days Kerry was in Kabul, said Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “A lot of progress has been made on the document, but it is not finalized,” Faizi told Reuters in an interview at the presidential palace.

If an agreement is not finalized, the draft will be sent to the Loya Jirga – an assembly of Afghan tribal elders – for further review in November. Though the U.S. hopes to agree upon a plan as soon as possible to give it time to develop a withdrawal strategy, Afghanistan is less concerned with making a speedy decision.

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah chairs the ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Ahim Rani

Floggings for drinking. Brunei’s Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah announced that the oil-rich country will begin implementing criminal sharia law in April of next year, mandating punishments like stoning to death for adultery or flogging for drinking alcohol:

Many crimes under the new code have a high burden of proof and sharia court judges would have discretion over punishments, which could also include amputations for theft. The tiny kingdom, which has Southeast Asia’s highest per-capita income after Singapore, has been preparing to introduce the sharia penal code for years. In the past, the sultan has said that sharia criminal law should be established to work alongside the country’s civil law more prominently.

The sale of alcohol is banned and evangelism by non-Muslims forbidden in Brunei.

Nota Bene: New report shows U.S. drone strikes killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.


Toxic talks – CFR Senior fellow David Markey says the U.S. should not get involved in Pakistan’s doomed Taliban peace talks. (Reuters)

Curia clash – ‘The bishop of bling’ meets with the ‘people’s pope.’ (BBC)

Haze Hoover – Dutch designer proposes electronic vacuum cleaner to suck up China’s smog. (The Atlantic Cities)

Pre-natal sect – Russian authorities arrest breast-feeding expert for leading a cult. (Time)

Radio rebels – Citizen journalists in Syria run an underground radio station. (Foreign Policy)

From the File:

  • Saudi Arabian leader says Riyadhi will ‘shift away from U.S.’ over Syria.
  • U.N. rebukes China over human rights record.
  • Cambodian court running out of time in Khmer Rouge trial.
  • Syrian weaponry still fearsome without chemical arms.
  • Italy to demand action on migrant crisis at EU summit.
No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/