London: The leader of a separatist Kurdish rebel group which has been locked in a guerrilla war against Turkey has said his fighters will disarm if Ankara meets certain conditions, in a BBC interview Wednesday.
Murat Karayilan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK), said he would order his rebels to lay down their weapons under United Nations supervision if Turkey agreed to a ceasefire and his demands.
An agreement would mark a breakthrough in the long-running conflict between Turkey and the PKK, which started when the Kurdish rebels took up arms in 1984 for self-rule in the southeast. The fighting has claimed some 45,000 lives.
"If the Kurdish issue is resolved in a democratic way through dialogue we will lay down our weapons, yes," Karayilan told the British broadcaster.
"We will not carry arms."
But the rebel leader raised the prospect of further trouble if Ankara did not agree to his offer: "If the Turkish government refuses to accept that, we will have to announce independence."
Speaking to the BBC at a camp in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, Karayilan said his conditions included an end to attacks on Kurdish civilians and arrests of Kurdish politicians in eastern Turkey.
The rebels have also been fighting for more linguistic and cultural rights for Turkey`s Kurds, said the BBC. A Turkish government official told the broadcaster it was "not in the habit of commenting on statements made by terrorists."
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and much of the international community, has stepped up its attacks inside Turkey in recent weeks. Since 2007, the Turkish army has often bombed PKK hideouts in northern Iraq and carried out a number of cross-border ground operations to pursue the rebels.