March 21, 2013 - 15:59 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan called on the armed PKK forces to ceasefire and withdraw from Turkey in a long-awaited historic announcement on Thursday, March 21, the Kurdish new year festival of Nevruz, Today’s Zaman reported.
Thousands gathered on Thursday morning at Nevruz celebrations to hear what Öcalan was to say. His message was read out to the crowd by pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Pervin Buldan both in Kurdish and Turkish.
“Our fight has been against all kinds of pressure, violence and oppression. A door is opening on democratic process after a period of armed struggle. Guns should fall silent and politics should come to the foreground,” Öcalan said in his message, adding that the disarmament is not an end, but on the contrary the beginning of a new era.
The PKK leader's announcement follows months of talks with Turkish intelligence officers and Kurdish politicians on the island prison in the Marmara Sea where he has been held since his capture by Turkish special forces in Kenya in 1999.
Öcalan's statement is expected to cement peace talks with Turkey that have been edging forward since October, possibly commanding PKK members to withdraw to northern Iraq where most of its several thousand PKK militants are based.
Such moves would lift a huge burden off European Union candidate Turkey, which has been fighting the PKK since 1984 in a war which has drained state coffers, stunted development of the mainly Kurdish Southeast and scarred Ankara's human rights record. A settlement would bolster the NATO member's credibility as it seeks to grow its influence across the Middle East and remove a stumbling block in its ailing EU accession process, Today's Zaman says.