Kurdish rebel leader urges end to armed struggle in Turkey
Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan on Saturday called for Kurds to hold a congress to bring an end to the 40-year armed struggle in Turkey waged by the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Diyarbakir: Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan on Saturday called for Kurds to hold a congress to bring an end to the decades-long armed struggle waged in Turkey by the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
"A congress should be organised to bring an end to the 40-year struggle against the Turkish Republic," Ocalan said in a message for Kurdish New Year celebrations in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
The message by Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence on a prison island in the Sea of Marmara, was read out by pro-Kurdish lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder and hailed a "new era" between Turkey and the Kurds.
Ocalan said the congress -- which would likely involve all the Kurdish political forces in Turkey -- would decide "a social and political strategy which will determine our history".
The congress would be expected to deal with the most contentious issue of the complete withdrawal of PKK fighters from Turkey and disarmament.
However Ocalan, who in February had called on the PKK to lay down their arms, did not specifically mention disarmament in this message.
Ocalan also hailed as a "victory" and a "new symbol of history" the defeat by Kurdish fighters of Islamic State (IS) jihadists in the battle for the Syrian town of Kobane.
At least 40,000 people have been killed on both sides since the PKK formally began its insurgency in 1984 demanding self-rule for Turkey`s Kurds who make up around 20 percent of the population. However bloodshed had begun a decade before that.
Hundreds of thousands attended the celebration in Diyarbakir despite heavy rain, flying yellow and red Kurdish flags and brandishing pictures of Ocalan.
The PKK has largely observed a ceasefire since 2013 but attempts to find a permanent deal have stalled over the issue of the withdrawal of PKK fighters and weaponry from Turkey.
The PKK is regarded as a terrorist group not only by Turkey but also by the United States and the European Union.
However it has also been working with Iraqi and Syrian Kurds in the US-backed campaign against IS militants, with its fighters winning respect for their abilities.