ANKARA, Turkey - (AP) -- Turkey is open to the resumption of talks with the jailed Kurdish rebel leader in a bid to end the decades-long conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, the country's prime minister said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statement late Wednesday comes amid a surge in violence in recent months between Turkish forces and rebels of Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who seek self-rule in southeast Turkey and took up arms in 1984. Dozens of security personnel have been killed in attacks in recent weeks, while Erdogan said last week that as many as 500 Kurdish rebels have been killed or captured in fighting.
Erdogan told Kanal 7 television that "there could be talks again" on the prison island of Imrali, off Istanbul, where PKK's leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is serving a life term. Excerpts of the interview were carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency.
The Turkish leader however, reiterated that the PKK had to relinquish arms and end attacks.
The government refuses to talk directly to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, but has admitted that Turkish officials have held secret discussions with Ocalan, as well as with other PKK members, as recently as 2011. Officials said talks have ended in failure.
A pro-Kurdish party has been calling for a resumption of talks between Ankara and the rebels, saying "dialogue" is the only solution. The party, however, wants both the PKK and the Turkish military to end the hostilities. The government has said the military would end operations only after the group lays down arms.
More fighting was reported Thursday, with the governor of the province of Hakkari, near the border with Iraq, saying two soldiers were killed and 13 rebels were either killed or captured in an operation against the PKK that began Wednesday.
At least 239 PKK rebels, 144 security force members and 29 civilians have died in the conflict this year, Erdogan told Kanal 7.