Middle East

PKK conflict with Turkey 'coming to an end': Ocalan

People hold a banner with the portrait of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a demonstration in Paris on August 9, 2014 in support of the Kurds and Christians in Iraq. (AFP/Joel Saget)

ISTANBUL: The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party's 30-year conflict with Turkey is coming to an end, the group's jailed leader said Saturday, hailing the start of a new democratic process in the country.

The PKK, which for three decades fought the Turkish authorities in a bloody insurgency seeking greater autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority, launched its armed struggle with coordinated attacks on police and security forces on Aug. 15, 1984.

But the group's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan said in a statement from his prison island of Imrali on the Sea of Marmara that Turkey was now on the verge of "historic developments" after its Aug. 10 presidential elections.

"On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of our struggle, I want to state that we are on the verge of historic developments," Ocalan said in a statement quoted by the Firat news agency, which is close to the PKK.

"This 30-year-long war is - through a major democratic negotiation - at the stage of coming to an end."

"The process of democratic negotiations has a profound meaning historically and socially," he added.

Ocalan's statement follows a meeting Friday on Imrali between him and representatives of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP).

The presidential election was won by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan but the HDP's candidate Selahattin Demirtas polled a respectable 9.8 percent in what Ocalan said was a breakthrough for Turkish democracy.

He said that the HDP was capable of becoming the main opposition to Erdogan and even replace his ruling party in government in the future.

"With these results, the HDP, with its broadest base will be today's democratic and effective opposition and the future's democratic ruling party," Ocalan said.

Erdogan has sought to ease tensions with Turkey's Kurdish minority by implementing reforms granting greater rights, notably on the use of the Kurdish language.

Erdogan's government launched clandestine peace talks with Ocalan in 2012 but the talks stalled in September when the rebels accused the government of failing to deliver on reform.

Parliament last month adopted a new reform bill aimed at kick-starting the talks which was hailed by Ocalan.

The moves come as PKK rebels and other armed Kurdish fighters play a lead role in combatting the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants in northern Iraq.





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