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Symbolbild Abdullah Öcalan
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Debets

Jailed Kurdish leader backs peace talks

Chase Winter (Reuters, AFP)
September 13, 2016

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has called on Turkey to resume failed peace talks. The spasm of violence since a ceasefire broke down last year has threatened to thrust Turkey into civil war.


Turkey should revive a peace process to end three-decades of conflict with Kurdish militants, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan said, in comments relayed by his brother on Monday. Peace talks between the two parties collapsed last year.

"We didn't end the peace process," Mehmet Ocalan quoted his brother as saying at a news conference in Diyarbakir. "A peace process can't be one-sided, the biggest responsibility is upon the state."

"If the state is ready… we have a plan and this problem can be ended in six months," Mehmet Ocalan, who visited his brother on Sunday, quoted the PKK leader as saying.

First comments in over a year

Thousands of people have died since a ceasefire and peace talks between the PKK and Turkish government broke down in July 2015.

The comments were the first from the PKK leader since April 2015, when the government stopped visits to his prison island of Imrali from where he still exerts considerable influence over the Kurdish movement.

The April 2015 visit was with parliamentarians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who were acting as mediators between Ocalan and PKK commanders based in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq.

The HDP later for the first time passed a 10 percent electoral threshold to enter parliament as a bloc, becoming the third largest party in parliament and taking away the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) single-party rule for the first time in 13 years.

The HDP accuses the AKP of reigniting the conflict in order secure enough votes to gain a majority, which it did in a second election in November.

The conflict has gained an added dimension as the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the YPG, expands its influence in northern Syria, prompting a Turkish military intervention into that country's civil war last month.

Reporters without Borders talks Turkey

Ocalan plays key role

Ocalan played a critical role in negotiating the peace process with the government from his prison cell.

The peace process ushered in a period of hope for a political solution to a conflict that has claimed some 40,000 lives.

Since the two-year peace process broke down, the Turkish government has taken a hard-line stance to the Kurdish problem, destroying several towns seized by militants and clamping down on the legal pro-Kurdish political movement in the country.

In the latest move, the government on Sunday replaced 24 pro-Kurdish mayors with government appointees over alleged ties to the PKK. Last month the government indicted several top Kurdish parliamentarians over alleged ties to the PKK in a move criticized by the EU and United States.

The government has vowed to eliminate every last PKK "terrorist."

Hunger strike ended

The visit by Mehmet, his first in two years, came on the eighth day of a hunger strike by 50 Kurdish politicians and activists demanding news on Ocalan's health after the failed July 15 military coup.

No one had seen Ocalan since April 2016, when the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Imrali, raising concern over his status following the failed coup attempt.

On Monday, the Kurdish hunger strikes called an end to the action saying their demands had been met.

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