Jailed PKK leader set to make 'historic' call

Expectations that Abdullah Ocalan will announce ceasefire on Thursday, ending nearly 30-year-old deadly conflict.
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2013 14:38
Ocalan has been in jail for 14 years after being found guilty of treason and sentenced to life in prison [AFP]

Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has announced he will make a "historic" call on Thursday, raising expectations of an end to a nearly 30-year-old conflict which has claimed about 40,000 lives.

In a statement relayed to Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Ocalan said he would make the announcement to coincide with Kurdish New Year celebrations.

"May this Newroz bring hope, may Newroz, so to say, be the insemination of the process for a solution"

- Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
Turkish Prime Minister

"The process of solution is developing in a positive way. Our aim is the democratisation of Turkey, this is what our efforts are for," Ocalan wrote in a letter read to reporters by Demirtas on his return to Istanbul on Monday from a visit to Ocalan's prison on the island of Imrali.

"To serve this purpose, I continue with my preparations to make a call on March 21, during the Newroz (Kurdish New Year) celebrations.

"The declaration I am going to make will be historic. This call will include satisfying information regarding both political and military legs of the solution."

Gulten Kisanak, another Kurdish politician, said last week that Ocalan's call would "go further than a ceasefire".

"The call that will be made has to have a meaning beyond the ceasefire," she said.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hopes Newroz will herald the start of a peaceful resolution. 

"May this Newroz bring hope, may Newroz, so to say, be the insemination of the process for a solution,'' Erdogan told lawmakers in parliament on Tuesday.

'Imrali process'

Ocalan, or 'Apo' as he is known to his allies, has been in jail for 14 years after being found guilty of treason and sentenced to life in prison.

PKK freed eight soldiers and civil servants on Wednesday as part of a peace process with the Turkish government

Any statement on Thursday would be the result of written consultations between Ocalan, pro-Kurdish politicians and PKK bodies in northern Iraq and Europe, held under the close monitoring of Turkish agents.

Turkey's secret services resumed negotiations with Ocalan, the so-called Imrali process, in October, aiming to end the conflict with the PKK, which is branded a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.

"I want to solve the issue of guns with haste and without a single life being lost," Ocalan said in Monday's letter.

In return, he called on the Turkish parliament to do "its part" to make the peace process a permanent one, enabling thousands of PKK members to lay down arms and withdraw from Turkey in the coming months.

The Kurdish movement has asked Turkey for the release of hundreds of Kurdish activists and politicians detained on charges of links to the PKK.

The Turkish parliament is working on a legal package that would bring its anti-terrorism laws more in line with European standards and contribute to the peace process by paving the way for the release of many Kurds.

Ankara also has promised not to attack rebels wishing to leave the country.

Cultural autonomy

The PKK had originally demanded full independence for a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey, but has moderated its goals to broader political and cultural autonomy.

Kurds account for 20 percent of Turkey's 76 million population, but are scattered through western Turkey as well as the southeast.

In the course of the conflict investment in the southeast has slumped and poverty increased, putting a strain, beyond the human losses, on the Turkish economy as a whole.

In an initial confidence-boosting step, the PKK last week released eight Turkish captives whom it had been holding at its bases in northern Iraq for up to two years.


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