26 MARCH 2013 – PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon welcomes PKK leader’s call for a truce

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Jean-Claude Mignon has today welcomed the PKK leader’s call for a truce. “This is a crucial stage in the continuing peace process, begun in December 2012 by the Turkish authorities with Abdullah Öcalan. Ending all violence is a precondition for any negotiations,” he said.

Joint Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner S tefan Füle on Abdullah Öcalan’s call on the PKK to lay down arms and withdraw beyond Turkey’s borders

Brussels, Catherine Ashton, high representative of the union for foreign affairs and security Policy and commissioner for enlargement and European neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle made today the following statement: “We welcome today’s call on the PKK to lay down arms and withdraw beyond Turkey’s borders and the positive reactions to that call. This is a further important step forward in the on-going process aimed at ending a conflict which has claimed far too many victims. We look forward to concrete follow-up and implementation.The EU has repeatedly encouraged all parties to work unremittingly to bring peace and prosperity for all citizens of Turkey. The EU gives its full support to this process. It stands ready to help, including through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance.”

Announcement by the PKK to Halt the Violence

Press Statement – Victoria Nuland Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson – Washington, DC – March 21, 2013

The United States welcomes today’s announcement by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK to halt the violence as a positive step toward ending more than three decades of tragic violence in Turkey. This violence has claimed too many lives and too many futures, and must end. We applaud the courageous efforts of the Government of Turkey and all parties concerned to achieve a peaceful resolution that will advance democracy in Turkey and improve the lives of all of Turkey’s citizens. The nited tates will continue to support the people of Turkey in their effort to finally resolve this issue and move toward a brighter future.


S&Ds welcome Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan’s call for a ceasefire

Thursday 21/03/2013

The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament welcome the call from Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan for a ceasefire. It is now the time for peace and democracy for the people of Turkey.

Hannes Swoboda, president of the S&D Group in the European Parliament, said:

“We welcome Abdullah Öcalan’s call for peace talks, which gives hope for an end to the 30-year struggle between the Turkish army and the Kurdish rebels.

“This positive development could and should open the way for a new period of co-operation and peace for all Turkish citizens. Negotiations are the only sustainable solution to avoid a further escalation of violence.

“The Turkish authorities must now create the conditions for a better relationship with Kurdish citizens, changing their approach and establishing genuine freedom of expression for all in Turkey.

“All political forces in Turkey must work to build a democratic state which fully respects human rights and freedoms.

“A just and lasting settlement of the Kurdish issue in Turkey will also have significant and positive implications for efforts towards bringing stability to the wider region.”


Foreign Minister Westerwelle on Abdullah Öcalan’s call for a cease-fire

Date of issue: 21.03.2013

Speaking today (21 March) in Berlin, Foreign Minister Westerwelle issued the following statement:

Abdullah Öcalan’s call for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of fighters is a big step towards more mutual trust. Concrete measures must now follow these announcements and the weapons must really be put aside That would create space for political agreements to end confrontation and violence for good and to take into account the concerns of Turkey’s Kurdish citizens in a legitimate fashion within the framework of the Turkish state. We encourage the parties to pursue political talks and negotiations even when faced with resistance and to finally put an end to this long and bloody conflict.

Turkey – PKK (March 22, 2013)

France welcomes the announcement by the PKK of its decision to lay down their arms, which is a positive development for the future of Turkey after several decades of conflict.

We support the efforts of the Turkish government, together with the actors concerned, to implement a peaceful solution that will allow Turkey to live in peace, democracy and prosperity.


President Barzani welcomes ceasefire call by PKK leader Abdulah Ocalan

SUN, 24 MAR 2013 13:31 |

Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region, Iraq ( – In a statement released today, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani welcomed a message by the imprisoned PKK leader Abdulah Ocalan in which he calls for a ceasefire and the pursuit of democratic and political means to address the Kurdish question in Turkey.

“We not only support and welcome this call by Mr Ocalan, we believe that this is the right course of action and a vindication of our long-standing policy that the Kurdish question is a political issue and that this question cannot be resolved through armed or military means,” said the statement by President Barzani.

“The success of the peace process requires the commitment of all sides to perseverance and patience. The peace process must be viewed by all sides with strategic importance and not merely as a political tactic. We call on all sides to take practical steps towards the peaceful and political resolution of the Kurdish question.”

The statement by the President concluded by saying that as in the past, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is ready to play any role to ensure this peace process succeeds and a political resolution of the Kurdish question in Turkey is found.


Jailed Leader of the Kurds Offers a Truce with Turkey


Published: March 21, 2013

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — The jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan on Thursday called for a cease-fire and ordered all his fighters off Turkish soil, in a landmark moment for a newly energized effort to end three decades of armed conflict with the Turkish government.

Since its start late last year, the peace effort has transfixed a Turkish public traumatized by a long and bloody conflict that has claimed nearly 40,000 lives and fractured society along ethnic lines. While there have been previous periods of cease-fire between Turkey and r. Ocalan’s group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., never before has there been so much support at the highest levels of both the Turkish and Kurdish leadership.

“We reached the point where weapons should go silent and ideas speak,” r. Ocalan wrote in a letter read out to jubilant crowds gathered in the Kurdish heartland here in southern Turkey. “ new era starts when politics, instead of guns, comes to the forefront.”

For the Turkish government, seeking peace within its borders is a step toward realizing its ambition to be a regional power broker. For the Kurds, the call for peace carries with it the hope of more rights under a new constitution and the freedom to express a separate identity within a country that for decades denied their existence, forbade them to speak their language and abused their activists.

The declaration by Mr. Ocalan was seen as a critical confidence-building step in the peace process. It brought ecstatic celebration among the huge crowds gathered outside Diyarbakir to celebrate Nowruz, the traditional spring festival. Lawmakers read out statements in both Turkish and Kurdish as waves of yellow, red and green, the traditional Kurdish colors, rippled through the masses.

The deal is far from done, however. Notably, while Mr. Ocalan called for militants to retreat to bases in the mountains of northern Iraq, he did not order them to disarm. And a long process of constitutional reform and negotiations over Kurdish prisoners lies ahead.

Still, if a lasting peace is achieved, there would be ramifications across the broader Middle East, where millions of Kurds also live in Syria, Iraq and Iran and have long held ambitions for independence. For nearly a century they have also nurtured a sense of betrayal: after the Allied victory in World War I, the victors first promised Kurdish independence, and then reneged.

Accordingly, it is an open question whether the Turkish Kurds’ willingness to seek greater rights within Turkey rather than hold out for independence signals that broader ambitions for a pan-Kurdish state have been tempered. The emphasis made in the letter on national unity and the will to live alongside Turks was regarded as an effort by Mr. Ocalan to calm nationalists who consider the peace process a major risk for territorial unity, and to also contain regional aspirations among Turkey’s Kurds.

Regional tensions are also a factor for Turkey. In the tumult of yria’s civil war, an offshoot of the Kurdish rebel group called the Democratic Union Party has taken up arms in pursuit of Kurdish autonomy there. In making peace with the P.K.K., analysts have said, Turkey is seeking to head off the creation of a new base within Syria from which militants linked to the group could launch attacks on Turkey.

The quick pace of the talks has riveted the public here.

“When I first started writing about this subject, I couldn’t even imagine it would come to this point,” wrote yup an, the editor in chief of the newspaper adikal, in a recent column. “In three months, Turkey is putting a stop to 30 years of bloodshed.”

For all the joy and celebration, there was still a sense of caution, and acknowledgment of a long road ahead.

“I see the statement as a positive development,” Prime inister ecep Tayyip rdogan said at a news conference in the etherlands, where he was on a state visit. “Implementation, however, is much more important, as we hope to see at the earliest to what extent Ocalan’s statement will be accepted.”

While the effort to find peace carries political risks for Mr. Erdogan, it also carries huge possibilities. He faces some opposition from nationalist groups opposed to pursuing talks with the P.K.K., which is regarded as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. But the political gamble Mr. Erdogan has made is that successful talks could earn him the support of Kurdish lawmakers in Parliament for his effort to alter the constitution to create an empowered presidency that he would then seek in an election next year, analysts have said.

 Ocalan’s direct involvement in the peace process, albeit while he is serving a life term in prison on a treason conviction, was itself a statement of how far the two sides have come. He had been barred from involvement in previous diplomatic efforts.

Murat Karayilan, the P.K.K. military commander, issued a statement from his mountain redoubt in northern Iraq in support of r. Ocalan’s call, TV, a Turkish television channel, reported.

Hardened by the resentments from decades of persecution by the Turkish state, and mindful of past failed attempts at peace, some Kurds sounded a note of skepticism.

“If the state fools these people once more, hell would break lose, and we’d be forced to leave this land that will turn into a big ball of fire,” Zulkuf Gunes, 5 , said, as he embraced his -year-old grandson dressed in a traditional Kurdish outfit in military green.

In Istanbul, Habibe Sezgin, a Kurd who moved to the city in the 1990s to escape the bloodshed in the southeast, expressed tempered hope. “I will hope and pray for peace,” she said, “but it is hard to believe in it after seeing so much violence over the years.”

Ceylan Yeginsu contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Tim Arango from Baghdad.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 23, 2013

A picture caption on Friday with an article about a call by the jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan for a truce with Turkey misidentified, in some editions, the day of the rally shown in Diyarbakir. It was on Thursday, not on Friday.


A Kurdish Spring on Many Fronts

By HARVEY MORRIS – The New York Times – LONDON — Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the rebel Kurdish Workers Party, or P.K.K., called for a ceasefire Thursday in the three-decade war between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state, giving a new impetus to New Year celebrations by Kurds.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds gathered in the eastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir to observe a holiday that they were long forbidden to celebrate publicly in Turkey.

In a message to pro-Kurdish legislators, Mr. Ocalan called for thousands of his fighters to withdraw from Turkish territory: “We have reached the point where the guns must be silenced and where ideas must speak.”

The truce marks the culmination of intensive negotiations between Mr. Ocalan and Turkish officials on ending a conflict that cost 40,000 lives.

The breakthrough will reverberate beyond Turkey’s borders to neighboring yria, Iraq and Iran, all countries with large Kurdish minorities.

The estimated 30 million Kurds of the Middle East —official figures are deliberately vague — represent the largest nation in the world without a state of its own.

Although linguistically related to the Persians of Iran, which was also celebrating the pre-Islamic New Year festival of Nowruz on Thursday, the Kurds have maintained a distinctive culture that has survived centuries of division and repression.

Their fortunes have seen a sharp change in the past decade, with the war in Iraq, the Arab Spring and Syria’s descent into civil war.

Ten years ago this week, Kurds were fleeing to the mountains from the cities of northern Iraq in anticipation of attacks by the forces of Saddam Hussein following the U.S.-led invasion.

Kurdish forces held the line in the north on behalf of the international coalition after Turkey refused to join the invasion.

A decade on, an autonomous Kurdistan is now the most secure and prosperous region of Iraq and enjoys close relations with a formerly hostile Turkey.

In Syria, Kurdish forces, including those allied to the P.K.K., have taken over territory and frontiers abandoned by the retreating troops of the Damascus regime.

Fears of a Kurdish contagion have now spread to Iran, where the pro-Syrian Tehran regime is concerned that a P.K.K. peace agreement will not only strengthen Turkey’s hand in the region but might also encourage unrest among its own Kurdish population.

“ P.K.K. that suspends its operations in Turkey is most likely to support the armed struggle of the Iranian Kurds and fight against Iran, or to go to Syria to boost and consolidate the gains of the Kurdish people there,” according to Bayram Sinkaya, writing for Turkey’s enter for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies.

For centuries, and before the creation of the modern Iranian, Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian states, rival powers used the Kurds to fight their wars with little benefit to the divided Kurdish nation.

In modern times, movements such as the P.K.K. have been used as proxies in conflicts between hostile neighboring states.

Analysts believe Turkey was prompted to make its own accommodation with a rebel movement it had failed to crush in response to the increasing influence within Syria of the P.K.K.-linked Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D.

“The Kurdish issue is Turkey’s Achilles heel,” Kadri Gursel wrote at Al Monitor, which covers trends in the Middle East. “It is its bleeding wound and as long as it remains as such Ankara cannot maintain an ambitious policy that would mean challenging regional powers.”

The ultimate success of Turkey’s attempt to solve its Kurdish question will doubtless depend on its readiness to recognize the democratic and cultural rights of its Kurdish population.

Kurdish movements in the Middle East, including the P.K.K., have broadly abandoned the objective of creating a pan-Kurdish state, an aspiration that was denied to the Kurds in the post-World War I settlement imposed by the world powers.

They now seek broader autonomy and equal rights within the established borders of existing states. The Turkish-Kurdish truce might bring them one step closer to that goal.

Within a changing Middle East, the Kurds might well discern a symbolic spark of freedom from the Nowruz bonfires they light on Thursday.


Kurdish rebels will heed their leader’s call for peace with Turkey, news reports say

The Washington Post – By Associated Press, Published: March 22

ANKARA, Turkey — senior Kurdish politician said riday that the Kurdish rebels’ armed struggle against Turkey was “99 percent over,” a day after the rebel leader called for a cease-fire and retreat and the insurgents gave a positive response.

Imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is engaged in talks with Turkish officials to end a nearly 30-year-old conflict, appealed to his fighters on Thursday to cease hostilities, a major step toward ending one of the world’s bloodiest insurgencies. is message was read by Kurdish legislators at a spring festival attended by hundreds of thousands of Kurds.

ebel commander urat Karayilan has indicated that guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, would heed the call, according to Radikal newspaper and the pro-Kurdish Firat News website.

“ Everyone should know that the PKK is prepared for both peace and war,” irat ews, which is close to the rebels, quoted Karayilan as saying. “On this basis we will, with determination, put into practice the terms of the process which was started” by Ocalan.

Karayilan has been leading the PKK from bases in northern Iraq since Ocalan’s capture in 999.

Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, said Ocalan’s message signaled that the armed struggle was almost over. Demirtas said, however, that the government needed to set up an independent committee that would ensure the safe withdrawal of several thousand rebels from Turkey’s territory.

“Ninety-nine percent of the armed struggle linked to the Kurdish issue is over,” Demirtas said. “The other one percent is up to the government.”

The Kurds are seeking guarantees that the rebels would not be attacked by Turkish security forces during the pull-out.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, has been fighting for autonomy and greater rights for Kurds in Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. Turkey announced in December that it was talking to Ocalan with the aim of persuading the PKK to disarm.

The Turkish government reacted cautiously to Ocalan’s call for peace, saying it was a positive development but that Ankara wanted to see whether it would be implemented by the rebels. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish security forces would cease operations against the rebels after the PKK fighters withdraw.

Kurdish rebels have declared cease-fires in the past, but these were ignored by the state, which had vowed to fight the PKK until the end. rdogan’s government has admitted to having held failed, secret talks with the PKK in past years, but this latest attempt — held more publicly and with Ocalan’s greater participation — has raised hopes for a successful settlement.

On Friday, Erdogan said he hoped the initiative would bring lasting peace to Turkey.

“Today is the day for the guns to be buried, for the bloodshed to stop and for the tears to be wiped away,” he said. “We have gone through very painful days. We don’t want our children to go through the same.”


Turkey and the PKK – The guns should fall silent, politics should talk

Mar 21st 2013, 17:02 by A.Z. | ISTANBUL – The Economist

HUNDREDS of thousands of Kurds from across the country congregated in their unofficial capital Diyarbakir today to listen to an historic appeal from Abdullah Ocalan (pictured on the picture above , the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In his much-anticipated address Mr Ocalan called on his men to end their armed rebellion and to withdraw from Turkey.

“The guns should fall silent, politics should talk,” r Ocalan said in a statement that was read out first in Kurdish then in Turkish by members of the pro-PKK Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who stood on an elevated platform. Images of the moustachioed PKK leader were projected from a giant overhead screen each one prompting a fresh roar of applause. “I say we have reached a point in which our armed elements should pull out of the borders,” r Ocalan’s message continued. “This is not giving up our struggle, it is about staging a new phase of struggle.”

The call, timed to coincide with Kurdish New Year celebrations, follows months of talks between r Ocalan and akan idan, Turkey’s national spy chief. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s mildly Islamist prime minister, has thrown his full weight behind this latest stab at peace, saying he would be willing “to imbibe hemlock” if need be.

Around 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died in the 29 year conflict that has hindered Turkey, an emerging economic powerhouse, from fulfilling its dreams of regional leadership.

r Ocalan painted a vision of a new alliance between Turks and Kurds, “united under the banner of Islam”. They would together form “a new force in the iddle ast”. t the same time r Ocalan made clear that he had no designs on Turkey’s borders. “ peech designed for Turks as much as Kurds. Ocalan hits all points: Muhammed, democracy, rab pring. Doesn’t even leave out Turkmen,” tweeted liza arcus, a Washington-based expert on the PKK, in a reference to r Ocalan’s embrace of assorted religious and ethnic minorities.

Yet amid all the lofty words, he gave no hint of when the PKK should withdraw. Nor did he say they should disarm altogether. “That means if there aren’t the right reforms, the PKK could start fighting again,” comments s arcus.

Murat Karayılan, a top PKK commander based in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, appeared to be saying as much in his reaction to r Ocalan’s message. “We will determinedly embrace the process launched by our leader (Ocalan),” he declared in a statement carried by the pro-PKK irat news agency. “ 0 3 will be the year of a solution either through peace or through war,” he added.

A tentative deal presumed to have been struck between the government and Mr Ocalan includes legal reforms that would allow thousands of Kurdish activists and politicians who have been jailed on thinly supported “terrorism” charges to walk free. A draft bill encompassing such changes is expected to be brought before the parliament in the coming weeks. A further test of Turkey’s commitment will be whether the army continues its operations against the rebels or not.

Most importantly of all the Kurds want the current constitution that was written by the generals following their last direct intervention in 1980 to be replaced with one that scraps an article that calls all Turkish citizens Turks and removes obstacles to education in the Kurdish language. Mr rdogan, who has promised to deliver a new “democratic” constitution, set an October deadline for a draft for a new constitution.

Murat Karayilan and his fellow commanders are keen to portray Erdogan’s recent overtures as a sign of weakness. The conflict in neighbouring Syria, in which Turkey is openly backing the rebels, has certainly played into the PKK’s hands. Bashar ssad, yria’s president, ceded control of a string of Kurdish towns along Turkey’s border to a Syrian Kurdish group with close ties to the PKK. ngered by Turkey’s campaign to topple the Syrian regime, Bashar Assad’s biggest regional friend, Iran, is also said to have resumed support for the PKK.

But Mr Assad will not be around for ever. And with Iran facing mounting pressure over its nuclear programme, the PKK’s fortunes may be short-lived. Last year the rebels took one of their biggest pumellings ever as Turkey stepped up its operations killing an estimated 800 PKK fighters. “We had more PKK buried here last year than in all my years working here”.


Jailed Kurdish Rebel Calls for Turkey Cease-fire

Pro-Kurdish politicians Sirri Sureyya Onder  and Pervin Buldan read the statement of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan as they are flanked by other Kurdish politicians in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2013

Dorian Jones – VOA – March 21, 2013

ISTANBUL — The imprisoned leader of the Kurdish rebel group the PKK has announced a cease-fire and withdrawal of its forces from Turkey. The announcement is part of ongoing efforts to end the nearly three decades conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state. Ocalan’s call for a cease-fire was made in a declaration read out to a massive crowd celebrating Newroz, the start of the Kurdish New Year, in Diyarbakir, the main city in predominantly Kurdish southeast Turkey. “This is the time of politics, not guns,” he said, adding that all guns should be silenced and the Kurdish armed units should be withdrawn outside Turkey.

The cease-fire was widely expected, but the call for the withdrawal of Kurdish rebel forces is being viewed as equally significant. Experts say as many as 3,000 Kurdish rebels are based in Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made their withdrawal a condition for the start of formal talks to end the decades-long conflict.

Abdullah Ocalan and the PKK

 1978: Ocalan founds the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

 1984: Kurdish rebels begin an armed struggle in southeastern Turkey

 1999: Ocalan is captured in Kenya, brought to Turkey and sentenced to death.

 2002: Ocalan’s sentence commuted to life in prison

 2012: PKK fighting intensifies, imprisoned Kurds go on hunger strike for two months

 2013: Ocalan meets with Turkish officials in prison, calls for cease-fire.

Erdogan launched his peace efforts last October. Logistically, questions remain how the fighters will withdraw. PKK leaders based in neighboring northern Iraq have called for guarantees that the withdrawing rebels will not be attacked. A similar withdrawal in 1999 following the capture of Ocalan by Turkish forces resulted in Turkey’s army inflicting heavy casualties on the group. A senior minister, speaking ahead of the declaration, said a full PKK withdrawal could be achieved as early as the end of the year. It remains unclear what concessions the Turkish government is prepared to give. But Kurdish political leaders expect reforms to be part of current parliamentary efforts to write a new constitution.

The Kurdistan Workers Party ( PKK):

 founded in 1974 by Abdullah Ocalan

 Marxist-Leninist separatist organization

 took up arms against Turkey in 1984; more than 40,000 people have been killed since

 most of the violence has been in Turkey’s southeast

 listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU

 has declared several short lived cease-fires

The PKK, along with legal Kurdish groups, are calling for greater cultural rights, local autonomy and amnesty for imprisoned Kurdish rebels and activists, including Ocalan. Senior Kurdish politicians have warned that the road to peace is still difficult, and fraught with the danger of provocations. Observers note that the issue of trust is still an obstacle. But both sides appear to agree these latest efforts offer the best opportunity for peace since the conflict, which has claimed over 40,000 lives, started nearly three decades ago. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and European Union.