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EU and US urge proportional Turkish response to armed groups

The EU and US warn against escalation of violence as more Turkish soldiers are killed and PKK claims suicide attack targeting army
Wreckage of a trailer and an excavator which have been set on fire by militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Tunceli, Turkey, on 1 August 2015 (AA)

The EU on Tuesday urged Turkey to make a "proportionate" response in Ankara's fight against "terrorism" in order not to endanger a faltering peace process with Kurdish militants. 

EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn told Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkir that Ankara has "the right to prevent and react to any form of terrorism, which must be unequivocally condemned," without specifically naming Kurdish armed group.

"The response, however, must be proportionate, targeted and by no means endanger the democratic political dialogue in the country," Hahn said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We count on Turkey to live up to its important and strategic role for the whole region, by refraining from any action that could further destabilise the region," Hahn added.

Last month, Turkey began attacks against Islamic State (IS) militants across its southern border with Syria while also launching extensive bombing raids against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside Turkey and in northern Iraq.

The Commission, said Hahn, also spoke to the co-head of Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), telling Selahattin Demirtas on Friday that "all parties should re-commit to the peace process and work now on a broad and inclusive political solution."

'Cycle of violence'

Meanwhile, the US on Monday called for an end to a series of attacks in Turkey that have been blamed on PKK militants.

"We want to see these attacks cease; we want to see the PKK renounce violence and reengage in talks with the government of Turkey," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

"These attacks are only exacerbating the continuation of the cycle of violence here," he added.

Following reports that retaliatory Turkish military airstrikes killed at least eight civilians in northern Iraq, Turkey said on Saturday that it would launch an investigation into the incident.

Toner said the US takes reports of civilian casualties "very seriously", adding that Washington does not "want to see any civilian casualties".

"We want to see the PKK stop its attacks against Turkey and then for the Turkish government to respond proportionately," Toner said.

The PKK - blacklisted as a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU, the US and a number of other states, including Iran - took up arms for self-rule in 1984 in an armed struggle which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Turkish soldiers killed in new attack

Meanwhile, two soldiers were killed and two more wounded on Tuesday in southeast Turkey when a mine exploded in the latest attack on security forces blamed on PKK militants.

Kurdish militants detonated a remote-controlled mine as a military convoy passed by in the Arakoy region of Sirnak province bordering Iraq and Syria, security sources told AFP.

The explosion triggered clashes between Turkish soldiers and PKK militants, the sources added, confirming a report by the official Anatolia news agency.

According to an AFP toll, 20 members of the Turkish security forces have been killed in attacks blamed on the PKK since the current crisis began.

Meanwhile, an explosion hit a natural gas pipeline transporting gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey in the eastern province of Kars, the Anatolia news agency said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the PKK have repeatedly targeted energy infrastructure in Turkey in the past.

Turkish warplanes have for over a week carried out hundreds of sorties over northern Iraq, with official media claiming that they have caused significant damage to PKK infrastructure and killed about 260 militants.

Ten Turkish F-16s strafed PKK targets in northern Iraq, including its Qandil Mountain headquarters, for about three hours.

PKK claims suicide bombing

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

The PKK confirmed on Monday the attack was carried out by one of its guerrillas with the nom de guerre of Andok Eris.

It said the attack was a reprisal for a Turkish air raid that pro-Kurdish media said killed several civilians on Saturday morning. The Turkish army insisted the raid had targeted "terrorist" infrastructure. 

Turkish security forces have come under Kurdish attack across the country since the 20 July Suruc bombing in southeastern Turkey, which killed 32 people and injured 100, mainly Kurdish activist.

The bombing was believed to be the work of IS.

The PKK and Ankara agreed a truce in late 2012 but peace talks since then have failed to make much headway in resolving a conflict.