Ceasefire doubts as Kurdish rebels halt withdrawal from Turkey

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Ceasefire doubts as Kurdish rebels halt withdrawal from Turkey

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Fresh concerns have emerged over a peace process between Turkey and Kurdish rebels.

Militants agreed to leave Turkish soil earlier this year amid a historic ceasefire, which had looked to end a bloody, 30-year conflict.

But the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) today said rebels had halted their withdrawal, claiming Turkey had failed to meet its side of the bargain.

The militants, fighting for independence, stopped short of ending the ceasefire by granting the Turkish government more time to change course.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was quoted in August saying the PKK had not kept its promise, with only 20 per cent of rebels leaving Turkey.

As well as more Kurdish-language education, the Kurds, who dominate Turkey’s southeast and account for about a fifth of the population, want anti-terrorism laws softened, the electoral threshold to enter parliament lowered from 10 percent, and more powers for local governments.

To keep the process on track, the government had been expected to begin debating a package of reforms last month aimed at bolstering Kurdish rights and boosting democracy.

Erdogan, under pressure from nationalists for offering concessions to militants, has said the measures will not “disturb the Turkish public”. He has repeatedly ruled out any general amnesty for PKK fighters.