Total retreat of militants from Turkey to be complete before June 16 deadline: Report

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – 16.3.2013 – The imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has called on the senior leaders of the organization to complete the retreat of militants from Turkey before June 16, daily Radikal reported March 16.

According to Radikal’s Editor-in-Chief Eyüp Can, Abdullah Öcalan proposed a detailed schedule to PKK forces as part of the ongoing peace process initiated with the Turkish government. In a letter conveyed by a parliamentary delegation comprising three deputies from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Öcalan reportedly said he was willing to announce a ceasefire before the Nevruz festivities, celebrated on March 21, and gave the deadline of June 16 for the end of the second stage, which is the retreat of militants.

“His insistence on this deadline is to prevent any eventual accident if the process takes a longer time [than expected]. If Turkey takes several steps towards democratization, such as the reinforcement of local administrations, the constitutional definition of citizenship, the release of political prisoners and the reduction of the election threshold, then the third stage will start,” Can wrote, stressing that there were no fractures inside the PKK and Öcalan will make “the final decision.”

Meanwhile, daily Milliyet reported on March 16 that the senior leaders of the PKK “have accepted with reservations” Öcalan’s road map in a letter due to be delivered by a third parliamentary delegation expected to visit the PKK leader on İmrali island next week. According to daily Taraf, the government is satisfied with the response of the PKK’s leaders in the Kandil Mountains. “The position adopted by Kandil and the answers sent to Öcalan have been interpreted in the government as ‘Kandil has a more favorable approach to the process than expected.’ Even the BDP did not expect such a positive attitude,” wrote Taraf columnist Kurtuluş Tayiz, adding that although the government was optimistic, it remained prudent before any important step was undertaken.