Kurdish separatist leader Murat Karayilan's interview

Al Jazeera English
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Al Jazeera's correspondent Hoda Abdel-Hamid reports from the mountains of Northern Iraq as Turkey's parliament weighs authorising a military incursion into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels. Cabinet members are due to vote on the proposal in a few hours. Ankara is under pressure from the United States and Iraq not to launch a cross-border offensive against the PKK. In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, the PKK's leader says they don't want to fight, but will respond to any military action. Abdel-Hamid reports: We drove six hours up to Mount Qandil to meet with the PKK leader Murat Karayilan. The Turkish government is threatening cross border operations to rid him and his fighters from their base in Mount Qandil. It says that from here they plan and support attacks on Turkish soil. Murat Karayilan says that as long as Kurds in Turkey are not given their rights they will continue their struggle.

"Its not true that we are crossing the border. We have fighters everywhere, even on the border, its not necessary to send any from here," he says. "How can we send them from here to the Black sea its too far. They are not telling the truth, Turkey's aim is to attack Iraqi Kurds."

So Turkey has a point when it says there are fighters to go from here into southern Turkey?

A: Yes, Turkey might very well attack. Its real aim is to put pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan. But its doing this now, because of the bill on the Armenian genocide. They are putting pressure on the US to gain something from them.

Now Turkey says that through these mountains, you smuggle weapons into Turkey?

A: It's not so difficult to buy arms here, you can also buy them, in particular modern weapons, in Istanbul. If you have money, you can buy them anywhere. Turkey is using this as an argument for attacking Iraq. Turkey is trying to prevent us from getting a political solution and continues to deny the rights of the Kurds in Turkey. In Iraq, the head of the state is a Kurd and Turkey doesn't recognise Kurdish leaders. They have a problem with Kurds.

The Iraqi government for the first time labelled the PKK as a terrorist organisation, they clearly said publicly that they are going to chase you from these mountains?

A: I think Turkey is going to put more pressure on the Kurds but we are open for solutions, but if Turkey is going to use violence against our movement, our leader and our people then we will respond. It seems that Turkey is preparing for an attack, that means we have to resist.

Now, the PKK leader also said that there had been no direct contact between him and the govt in Baghdad after the visit of PM Maliki in Ankara where he signed a memorandum of understanding where he pledged to rid these mountains of PKK fighters.

With such a resolve, Kurds living near the Iraqi-Turkey border can only expect more trouble ahead. Neither the PKK, nor Turkey seem to have found a starting point for negotiations that could lead to a peaceful settlement.

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