Kurdish rebel leader set to announce Turkey peace plan
The jailed leader of Turkey`s Kurdish rebels is set Saturday to announce a new roadmap for peace as expectations grow of a breakthrough in efforts to end a three-decades insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Ankara: The jailed leader of Turkey`s Kurdish rebels is set Saturday to announce a new roadmap for peace as expectations grow of a breakthrough in efforts to end a three-decades insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The statement by Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence on a prison island in the Sea of Marmara, is expected to be read out in the eastern city of Diyarbakir by deputies from the pro-Kurdish People`s Democratic Party (HDP).
The eagerly-anticipated statement coincides with huge celebrations expected in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish-majority cities in Turkey for the traditional Persian Nowruz (Newroz in Kurdish) New Year on Saturday.
Ocalan, who has been held by Turkey since his sensational arrest by Turkish agents in Kenya in 1999, is known to his followers as "Apo" ("Uncle") and remains the main leader of Turkish Kurds despite his incarceration.
His Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has waged an insurgency since 1984 for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast of Turkey, in a struggle that has claimed an estimated 40,000 lives.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has worked over the last years to find a solution, granting modest reforms to the Kurdish minority believed to make up 20 percent of the population.HDP deputies visited Ocalan on his prison island of Imrali on Thursday, and after four hours of meetings returned with the statement that will be delivered on Saturday.
The statement has been kept tightly under wraps. It will be read out and not be an unprecedented video message as some had anticipated.
"It will be a road map for the nation and the region, with theoretical and practical details on the peace process," said one of the HDP deputies, Sirri Sureyya Onder.
Ocalan had on March 1 already made a statement described as historic in some quarters, urging the PKK to hold a congress on disarmament in the coming months.
However the process is far from entirely smooth. The armed PKK militants, based in the Kandil Mountains of neighbouring Iraq, are insisting there should be a peace deal before any disarmament.
Meanwhile, Turkish legislative elections are looming on June 7, with the risk of unrest in the combustible country, and Kurdish votes set to play a key role in the outcome.
Kurdish politicians expressed fury over a contentious security bill submitted to parliament by the government in the wake of pro-Kurdish protests in October last year that left dozens dead.
However, in an apparent bid not to disturb the fragile peace process, the government has withdrawn the bill from parliament and sent it back to the committee stage.
Erdogan annoyed Kurds when he flatly declared last week there was "no Kurdish problem in Turkey," while police and Kurds have already clashed in Newroz celebrations in Batman and Sirnak.
Often described as the world`s largest stateless people after being denied their own nation in the wake of World War I, Kurds are spread between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
The current search for peace, known in Turkey as the Solution Process, dates back to 2012 when the government revealed the Turkish intelligence service had secretly met with Ocalan.