The imprisoned leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, has issued a message for his 64th birthday in which he said the settlement of the Kurdish and terrorism problems should be “bloodless.”
"Let not a drop of blood be shed during the settlement process," read the message. Ocalan's message was taken to Kurds celebrating the terrorist head's birthday by a group of Kurdish lawmakers on Thursday.
Thousands of Kurds flocked to Omerli village in Sanliurfa's Halfeti district, where Ocalan was born, to mark the PKK head's birthday. Ocalan's message was read to participants of events organized to celebrate the birthday.
"I am now 65 years old. I have done what fell on my shoulders. Now it is your turn," read the message, which asked for support for ongoing efforts for the settlement of the terrorism and Kurdish problems. In his statement, Ocalan further stated that 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, it is also the rebirth of a people," he said.
Three deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) traveled to the island of Imrali on Wednesday to meet with Ocalan for the fourth time. 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.
The delegation refused to make a statement to the press after the meeting.
In his message, Ocalan further called on Turkey's Kurds, regardless of their social background, to join the settlement process. "Without looking at whether they are rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, I call on those who say I'm honorable and decent to take part in the settlement process and contribute to it. Everyone must know that life [in Turkey] will be different," he stated.
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.
BDP Istanbul deputy Sebahat Tuncel was also among the participants at Ocalan's birthday celebrations in Omerli. After arriving in the village, Tuncel spoke to reporters and said Ocalan expressed his belief for peace to be achieved in his message. "We want our hope for peace to be strengthened every passing day, and we expect concrete steps for peace," she stated.
Demirtas denied claims Ocalan called for weapons-free withdrawal
Also on Thursday, several Turkish newspapers reported that Ocalan told the BDP delegation that the terrorist PKK should lay down its arms before withdrawing from Turkey.
The newspapers claimed that Ocalan told the deputies to convey his message to PKK administrators that he wants the terrorist group to consider leaving Turkey without arms and without expecting a legislative measure from Parliament.
However, BDP Co-chairman Demirtas denied the reports. According to him Ocalan looked to be in good health and high spirits and was decisive about the successful completion of the settlement process. "He did not give us a clear message for the weapons-free withdrawal of the PKK," Demirtas added.
Earlier in the day, the newspapers had reported that sources close to the BDP told the media that Ocalan's message on unarmed withdrawal of terrorists will be delivered to PKK commanders in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq by a BDP delegation in the coming weeks. In his message, Ocalan reportedly said: “Everyone should know that a new life is awaiting us. I hope not a single drop of blood will be shed any more. I hope no one will be hurt. I hope everyone will contribute to the process [of settling the terrorism problem in Turkey].”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said any withdrawal of the PKK would only be possible after the terrorist group's members in Turkey lay down their arms within the country. “Our security forces will not engage those who have already laid down their arms,” he added.
In response to the prime minister's remarks, the PKK administration released a statement that said the group has no intention of laying down its arms unless necessary legislative measures are made by Parliament for a secure withdrawal.
The newspapers also claimed on Thursday that the first group of PKK terrorists will withdraw from Turkey on April 18 from the central Tokat and Tunceli provinces. The terrorists are most likely to go to the PKK camps in the Kandil Mountains. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) will set up six offices in northern Iraq to monitor the withdrawal process.
MIT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan paid a visit to Ocalan over the weekend and reportedly asked him to display a clearer stance over the unarmed withdrawal of PKK terrorists. The visit lasted two hours.