Turkey vows 'whatever necessary' in fight against militants

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Istanbul (AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday vowed to do "whatever necessary" in Turkey's controversial fight against Kurdish militants, with no end in sight to a two-week cycle of violence.

Ankara is waging a two-pronged cross-border "anti-terror" offensive to bomb Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq, after a wave of attacks in the country.

But so far, the air strikes against the PKK targets in northern Iraq have far outweighed those against IS, raising concerns about the extent of possible civilian casualties.

Erdogan told reporters returning with him from a trip to Asia that the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq should be taking action against the PKK bases there.

"If they cannot, Turkey will do whatever necessary to defend itself," he was quoted as telling reporters on his presidential jet.

But with the PKK staging daily attacks on security forces in reprisal for Turkish bombing raids, Erdogan denied there would be any return to the 1990s when the group's separatist insurgency was at its peak.

"I don't believe that. That's impossible. Maybe those who say this want to return to the 1990s," he said, quoted by the Sabah daily and other newspapers.

The Hurriyet daily said on its website that 10 Turkish F-16s Monday afternoon launched a new three hour operation to bomb PKK targets in northern Iraq including its Qandil Mountain headquarters.

Caves, shelters and weapons depots were destroyed with the help of laser-guided bombs, it added.

- PKK claims suicide bombing -

The current crisis began two weeks ago on July 20 when 32 young pro-Kurdish activists were killed in a Turkish town on the Syrian border in a suicide bombing blamed on IS.

The PKK, which accuses the government of collaborating with IS, shot dead two Turkish police in reprisal, starting a wave of violence that has shattered a 2013 ceasefire.

According to an AFP toll, 17 members of the Turkish security forces have since been killed in attacks blamed on the PKK.

On Sunday, two Turkish soldiers were killed and 31 wounded in a suicide bombing by a PKK guerrilla in the east of the country, the first time the group has used the tactic in the current conflict.

The PKK confirmed Monday the attack was carried out by one of its guerrillas with the nom-de-guerre of Andok Eris, saying it was a reprisal for a Turkish air raid that pro-Kurdish media said killed several civilians on Saturday morning.

The Turkish army has insisted the air force bombing in the Zarkel region of northern Iraq hit a "terrorist camp" and not a civilian village.

The Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have long tolerated the presence of PKK fighters in its remote mountains.

But regional president Massud Barzani said at the weekend it was time the group took its battle with Turkey elsewhere to avoid civilian casualties.

Several new attacks blamed on the PKK in eastern Turkey -- including a gun assault on a military hospital in the Van region -- were reported but there were no fatalities.

- 'Serious differences' -

The violence also comes with Turkey still without a permanent government since June 7 legislative elections, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority, much to Erdogan's chagrin.

The HDP has accused Erdogan of triggering the crisis in the hope of calling early elections so the AKP can recoup its losses -- allegations the Turkish strongman vehemently denies.

The AKP and main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on Monday held a fifth and final day of talks on a possible grand coalition but there was no immediate hint of a breakthrough.

After over 7.5 hours of talks, the chief negotiators Haluk Koc of the CHP and Omer Celik of the AKP expressed satisfaction with the negotiations but said it would be their party leaders who would make the decision on whether to go further.

"There are issues where we have serious differences and places where we overlap," said Koc. "This will be forwarded to our leaders and the party executive. We have done our work."

"We had a very open process with the CHP, with the language of respect," said Celik. "At the end it will be our party chief (Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu) and executive who decides."

CHP chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in a television interview late Sunday that whereas Davutoglu "really wants" to form a coalition government, Erdogan was blocking an alliance.

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