Beirut and Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish armed separatist movement the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), on Saturday called on members of the PKK to take an “historic” decision and end a decades-long armed insurgency against Turkey.
The announcement came following an agreement between both sides after meetings between members of the Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and Öcalan on Friday, part of an almost two-year push by both sides to reach a deal to end hostilities.
In a press statement read out by HDP representative Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Öcalan called on the PKK “to hold a general extraordinary congress during the Spring months to take an historic and strategic decision to end the armed conflict” in light of the agreement reached with Ankara.
He said the movement and Ankara were “now moving from an era of 30-year conflict to one of perpetual peace,” adding that the new agreement between the two represented “an historic announcement of our [the PKK’s] intentions regarding finding peaceful political solutions in place of armed struggle.”
The agreement between the PKK and Ankara mandates the drafting of a new Turkish constitution taking into account proposed amendments to citizenship rights for ethnic Kurds in Turkey, a major sticking point in negotiations up until now.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan said during the press conference that the drafting of the new constitution would now provide “an important opportunity to find solutions to many deep-rooted problems” between both sides.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, Ceylan Eminoğlu, an MP for the Kurdish-dominated Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), said it was now time for the Turkish government to release Öcalan, who has been imprisoned on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999, following his capture by the CIA.
“What was announced today [Saturday] sends a clear message: that all Kurds are insisting on dialogue and on the peace process,” Eminoğlu added.
Moves toward rapprochement between Ankara and the PKK began in 2013 when Turkish government officials conducted talks indirectly with Öcalan via HDP representatives.
Following initial meetings, Öcalan called on the PKK to commit to a ceasefire with Ankara and for members to leave Turkish territory, but the talks stalled again in September of that year when the PKK reneged on the latter after accusing Ankara of failing to push through promised reforms.
The PKK and Ankara have been engaged in conflict since 1984, after the movement began an armed struggle for greater political and cultural autonomy for Turkey’s ethnic Kurds.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, with many more permanently injured or maimed and others displaced from their homes.
Both Turkey and the United States have designated the PKK a terrorist organization.
Dalshad Abdullah contributed additional reporting from Erbil.