Military denies first group of PKK terrorists withdrew from Turkey

27 March 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – The Turkish military has denied a news report which claimed that an initial group of militants from the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has withdrawn from Turkey after a call by the terrorist group’s jailed leader last week.

The Akşam daily claimed on Tuesday that the first group had crossed the Turkish border into northern Iraq under the surveillance of Turkish military jets. The General Staff said in a written statement on Tuesday that the report is untrue, noting that Turkish reconnaissance jets flew over 13 locations in northern Iraq on Tuesday for reconnaissance purposes only.

The statement also denied another news report which claimed that the Turkish military ceased its operations against the PKK three months ago. The General Staff said the military has been performing its duties as stipulated by law. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan called on PKK forces for a cease-fire and withdrawal from Turkey in a long-awaited historic announcement during celebrations of Nevruz, a spring festival, in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır last Thursday. The statement comes after some news reports on Tuesday claimed that PKK militants have slowly begun to leave Turkish territory.

Reports citing intelligence units also suggested that the PKK militants will be withdrawing to Iran and Syria, although these also could not be confirmed. The PKK is based in Kandil, in northern Iraq, but reports said the group’s main base there is already overcrowded. Those leaving for Iraq will go to PKK bases in Zap and Haftanin, two areas near the Turkish border, according to claims.

Turkish officials and Öcalan have been negotiating a peace deal since October of last year. The main purpose of the talks, according to state officials, is to convince the PKK, which has been fighting against Turkish security forces in the Kurdish-dominated Southeast of the country for four decades, to disarm. Last week, a message sent to the PKK by Öcalan was read out loud in a rally held on the Nevruz holiday, the Kurdish new year. Öcalan called on the group to lay down its arms and pull its fighters out of Turkey. It is also not clear how willing the group will be to withdraw. PKK’s number two, Murat Karayılan, said last week that the organization will not be withdrawing until autumn.