The leader of a Kurdish armed group imprisoned by Turkey is set to call for a long-sought ceasefire next month as part of a renewed push for peace with the Turkish government, according to officials.
Abdullah Ocalan, head of the PKK, is currently serving a life sentence on an island prison off Istanbul where visitors are seldom allowed and only under the surveillance of Turkish agents.
“[The PKK] will declare at the very least a ceasefire by Newroz [March 21, the Kurdish New Year] and lay down arms by July-August, after which departure from the country will be discussed,” Bulent Arinc, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said in an interview on Turkish TV on Monday.
Arinc was quoting a 20-page letter written by Ocalan, which outlined his views on a possible solution for the nearly three-decade-long conflict between the PKK and Turkish security forces that has cost 45,000 lives, mostly Kurdish.
Turkey’s secret services resumed negotiations with Ocalan in December with the ultimate aim of ending the PKK’s fight for autonomy.
Ocalan’s letter was addressed to PKK members and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), according to Nazmi Gur, a BDP legislator.
Gur told AFP news agency that Ocalan was proposing a “draft solution” in the letter and there would be more discussion and feedback before reaching a final decision.
“We, all components of the Kurdish movement, will be standing behind that final decision Ocalan will give on that day,” Gur said referring to March 21.
Both sides in the conflict have set out conditions they say would signal good faith and commitment to long-lasting peace.
PKK is asking for the release of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Kurdish activists and politicians kept in detention on charges of links to the group.
Turkey in return insists “terrorists” need to withdraw from Turkish territory before the peace process can effectively begin, and has promised not to attack rebels wishing to leave the country.