22 March 2015 – REUTERS / MESOP – “Let Newroz be a cornerstone that truly combines love and excitement,” he said, referring to the Kurdish “Newroz” New Year. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc welcomed the message and claimed it as a success of the ruling AK Party government.“I believe that the positive elements in this message shows that further progress could be made. But this is a very positive and hopeful message. I see this message that calls for laying down the weapons and ending armed struggle against Turkey, as a success of our government,” Arinc told reporters in Ankara. Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan said on Saturday the PKK’s insurgency against the Turkish state had become “unsustainable” but stopped short of declaring an immediate end to its armed struggle.

In a message relayed by Kurdish politicians to tens of thousands gathered in the southeastern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir (Amed) in Turkish Kurdistan, Ocalan urged the PKK to hold a congress on laying down its weapons. Young men in green guerrilla outfits and women in brightly coloured dresses danced as patriotic Kurdish songs played. Organizers claimed a million people attended, but there were no official figures. Large screens on each side of a stage showed Ocalan’s face while many waved flags of the PKK, deemed a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

The mere display of Kurdish insignia, let alone an image of Ocalan, could have brought arrest and imprisonment less than a decade ago. It still enrages many nationalists. “We welcome his (Ocalan’s) latest message. Of course, we want peace. Of course. All Kurds want peace. But peace cannot be achieved unilaterally. It should be reciprocal. Ocalan is the one who always takes the steps but from now on we expect Turkey to take some steps as well,” Diyarbakir resident Sinan Kuru said. “He reiterated his previous call asking PKK to hold a congress for disarmament. But this message does not precisely call on them to lay down the weapons.There will be a process. He (Ocalan) unveiled ten principles. How many of these principles will be adopted (by Turkish government)?” another resident Umut Varli added.