Official: PKK Pullout Will Take Longer Than Expected

RUDAW – 6.6.2013 – By Farman Chomani – QANDIL, Kurdistan Region – Nine batches of guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party have so far arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan as part of the peace deal with Ankara, but the pullout has been slow and will take longer than thought, an official close to the PKK said.

“The (withdrawal) process will continue and it is not clear when it will end because our guerrillas are scattered in Erzurum, Dersim, the Black Sea Region (Kara Deniz) and Amanos,” said Zekki Shangali, a senior member of the Union of Kurdish Communities (KCK), which is linked to the PKK. “Our guerrillas are retreating on foot,” he said, explaining that, “It requires time to withdraw from those regions on foot.” Following peace talks with Ankara, last March the imprisoned PKK leader Abdulla Ocalan ordered PKK guerillas to withdraw from Turkey as a sign of goodwill.

The PKK began withdrawing its fighters on May 8, and estimates suggest the presence of around 2,000 PKK guerrillas inside Turkey. The first group of the withdrawing guerrillas was expected to reach the PKK base in the Kurdistan Region’s Qandil Mountain on May 8, but did not arrive until May 13 due to snowy mountain passes and the presence of the Turkish army troops, Shangali said.

He reiterated that Turkish forces must not impede or interfere with the pullout, warning that,  “Even by accident, if one of our guerrillas was killed, the withdrawal process would stop.” Shangali criticized the Turkish government for not responding to the PKK’s hugely important decision to pull out fighters.

“Practically, Turkey has not taken any steps. There are just words. They say they want to solve the Kurdish issue, but when and how? They are still bombarding the borders every now and then, there are military movements on the borders and the spy planes are flying over the Mede Region every day,” said Shangali.

“Turkey has only stopped its extensive military operations in the north and bombardment of the south. Other than that, we have not witnessed a practical step. Peace cannot be achieved by one side alone; they need to take steps as well,” he added. He said he was, nevertheless, optimistic because the pullout was taking place without casualties on either side. He also dismissed media reports that fighters would not withdraw from the Dersim region. “The PKK guerrillas will withdraw from all the regions of north (Turkish) Kurdistan. It is our decision not to remain there, but our withdrawal will take longer in some places,” he explained.