ISTANBUL - Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan said he would make a “historic call” on Thursday, raising expectations of ceasefire that could help end a 28-year-old conflict which has riven Turkey, killing some 40,000 people, and battered its economy.
Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas, a member of parliament, conveyed Ocalan's statement on his return to Istanbul from a visit to his prison on the island of Imrali.
“We want to solve the arms problem rapidly and without losing time or another life,” Ocalan said in calling for the support of parliament and political parties to achieve a lasting peace.
The PKK is considered a terrorist group by the Unkited States and the European Union as well as Turkey. But Ankara opened talks with Ocalan last October in an effort to end the conflict after a summer of rising guerrilla violence and large scale arrests of Kurdish activists.
A ceasefire call, coinciding with the Kurdish new year, could be accompanied by a command to his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants to withdraw from Turkey to their bases in northern Iraq.
“The statement I am preparing will be a historic call. It will contain satisfying information on the military and political dimensions of a solution,” Ocalan said.
Ocalan began talks with state officials last October last year. Truces have been agreed and failed before in the war, but this is the first time Ocalan and a Turkish prime minister have openly spoken of talks on a comprehensive settlement.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has made a number of concessions on cultural and language rights as part of his efforts to bring a settlement.
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. - Reuters