Turkey: PKK leader calls halt to armed struggle

Ocalan orders withdrawal from Turkish territory

21 March, 16:32

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, MARCH 21 - In a message sent from his prison cell on the Imrali penitentiary island, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has called on the group to cease its armed struggle and leave Turkish territory. The message had been previously announced and was read out in the 'capital' of Turkish Kurdistan, Diyarbakir, in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

''We have reached the point where the guns must be silenced and where ideas must speak. A new era has started, where it is politics, not guns, which is at the forefront,'' Ocalan said in the message read by two pro-Kurdish MPs in Turkish and Kurdish as part of the celebrations for Newruz, the Kurdish new year. Ocalan, known as Apo or 'uncle' by his supporters, said in front of a huge crowd waving Kurdish flags that ''it is the beginning and not the end of an era''.

The PKK leader has been imprisoned on the Imrali prison island since 1999, after being sentenced to death and then having the sentence commuted to life in jail. In December he began peace talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan through MIT secret services chief Hakan Fidan. Turkish media say that the PKK has approximately 3,500 guerrilla fighters in Turkish Kurdistan, who are now expected to withdraw - with safe conduct ensured by the Erdogan government - to the rebel's bases in northern Iraq, while peace talks continue.(ANSAmed).

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