BEIRUT

Middle East

Imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader calls for peace: reports

ISTANBUL: The imprisoned leader of Turkey's Kurdish rebels has called for an end to bloodshed after his troops cranked up their attacks against Turkish forces this summer, his brother told the daily Taraf.

"Not even a single policeman, troop or guerilla should die from now on, he told me in our last get together," Mehmet Ocalan, brother of detained rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan, was quoted as saying by Taraf on Friday.

Mehmet Ocalan relayed his brother's wish "for the bloodshed to stop, the problem to be solved," but refrained from giving details on the date of their meeting at the island prison of Imrali, south of Istanbul.

According to the Hurriyet daily, the meeting took place last Friday.

Ocalan's call for peace comes as intensified clashes between Turkish troops and his outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels rage in the Kurdish-majority southeast.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday 144 members of the security forces and 239 rebels had been killed since the start of the year, marking one of the deadliest phases of the confrontation in more than a decade.

In all, about 45,000 people have been killed since the PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms for autonomy in the southeast in 1984.

Erdogan also signaled the possibility of resuming negotiations with the rebels, after clandestine talks between the sides, publicly known as "Oslo talks", reached a dead end in 2011.

Mehmet Ocalan's visit was, Erdogan said, a government initiative to put an end to speculations that the Kurdish leader might have been killed in jail, after he was placed under solitary confinement more than a year ago.

Abdullah Ocalan was captured by Turkish agents in Nairobi, brought back to Turkey and sentenced to death in 1999, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison.

 

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