Jailed Kurd to make Turkey peace call

 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.

File image - Kurds carry a banner with a portrait of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, during a demonstration. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak). Credit: AP

“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