Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed Kurdish rebel leader, has issued a long-awaited ceasefire declaration that would be a major step towards ending a 30-year conflict that has cost around 40,000 lives in Turkey. The ceasefire, announced on Thursday and which coincides with the Kurdish New Year, or Newroz, also calls for the withdrawal of PKK likely to bases in northern Iraq.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said the ceasefire call was a “positive development”. “There are groups that are fed by terror in our country. This process will ruin their game.” he said, speaking during a visit to the Netherlands.
“The stage has been reached where our armed forces should withdraw beyond the borders … It’s not the end. It’s the start of a new era.”In Ocalan’s letter, read out by members of parliament, Pervin Buldan, in Kurdish, and Sirri Sureyya Onder, in Turkish, the PKK leader said: “Let guns be silenced and poltics dominate. The statement was read out to a sea of red-yellow-green Kurdish flags, in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, where hundreds of thousands gathered for celebrations.
Erdogan expressed his disappointment because there were no Turkish flags at the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakir. “This is a provocative approach by the circles who wants to influence the process in a negative way,” he said.
Ocalan’s ceasefire is likely to be in return for wider constitutional recognition and language rights for Turkey’s up to 15 million Kurds.
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