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"Let not a drop of blood be shed during the settlement process", said head of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan in a statement after meeting with a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) delegation which visited him on Wednesday as part of ongoing peace efforts to end the decades-old Kurdish conflict.
In his call to Turkey's Kurds who celebrate the 65th birthday of Ocalan across the country, the PKK leader said chances and opportunities for an 'honorable peace' have increased.
"This [peace settlement] is the most significant thing that we could present to our people. Today is not only my birthday, but is also rebirth of a people", Ocalan said.
He called on Turkey's Kurds, regardless of their social background, to join the settlement process. "Without looking whether they are poor or rich, old or young, man or woman, I call on those who say I'm honorable and decent, to take place in the settlement process and contribute to it. Everybody must know that the life [in Turkey] will be different" Ocalan stated.
"Let not a drop of blood be shed during this settlement process." he added, calling on everyone to take place in the settlement process.
As the government announced a group of people who will promote the ongoing settlement process on Wednesday, three deputies from the BDP visited Imrali Island for a fourth meeting with Ocalan.
The delegation, including BDP Co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtas and deputies Pervin Buldan and Sirri Sureyya Onder, set off by boat on Wednesday for Imrali Island, where Ocalan has been imprisoned since his capture in 1999. The visit is part of ongoing talks aimed at resolving Turkey's long-standing terrorism problem.
Ocalan was expected to tell the PKK's militants in Kandil -- a mountainous area in northern Iraq where the PKK's main camp is located -- that they need not worry about attacks from the Turkish military while leaving Turkish territory, highlighting the determination of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government for a settlement.
The BDP delegation is expected to go to Omerli on Thursday morning. BDP Sanlurfa deputy Ibrahim Binci said an event was going to be organized to mark Ocalan's birthday at the village. He said speeches during the event will call on the entire country to support the settlement process.
Turkish state authorities have been holding peace negotiations with Ocalan since last October with the aim of achieving a timetable for the disarmament of PKK terrorists. Ocalan has significant influence among PKK members and supporters and the state believes that talks with the terrorist head will achieve their goals of a withdrawal of PKK militants from Turkey and in the long run, full disarmament.
In a historic message on March 21, Ocalan called on the PKK to declare a cease-fire and withdraw from Turkey. Since then, how the terrorists will leave the country has become a hot topic of discussion.
The Yeni Safak daily reported on Thursday that during the latest meeting with BDP deputies, Ocalan called on the PKK forces to withdraw from Turkey without their weapons.
A weapons-free withdrawal by the PKK, as sought by the government, would be a significant step towards ending a conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people.
Yeni Safak also said the pullout would begin on April 18 in Tokat and Tunceli, the areas most distant from the Iraqi border where PKK forces are located. The withdrawal will be monitored by the Turkish intelligence agency and the Kurdistan regional government, it said.