Connect to share and comment

UPDATE 1-Turkey, Ocalan map out steps to end Kurdish conflict

Thomson ReutersEnlarge
(/GlobalPost)

* Jailed militant agrees four-stage process to disarmament

* Kurdish politicians, PKK give cautious welcome

* Pro-Kurdish party seeks role in negotiations

* 40,000 killed since conflict began in 1984

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The Turkish government and the
jailed leader of a Kurdish insurgency have agreed on the
framework for a plan to end a war that has killed 40,000 people
since 1984, envisaging rebel disarmament in exchange for
increased minority rights, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

The Radikal daily said senior intelligence officials had
held meetings with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) chief Abdullah
Ocalan in his island jail near Istanbul, yielding a four-stage
plan to halt the conflict.

Previous negotiations with the PKK were highly secretive and
appeared to have run aground. The open acknowledgment of the
latest contact has raised hopes for a renewed peace effort,
including from the main pro-Kurdish party in parliament.

"Meeting with Ocalan...is a correct step, it's logical and
appropriate," Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin
Demirtas told members of his party in the assembly in Ankara.

"Peace in Turkey can only begin with this step."

Radikal said that after an initial end to hostilities the
PKK fighters would withdraw from Turkish territory, after which
disarmament talks would begin, before a final process of the
militants laying down their weapons.

Ocalan will prepare four letters setting out his vision for
a solution to the conflict to be addressed to the BDP, to the
PKK commanders in northern Iraq, to Europe, where many PKK
activists are based, and to the Turkish public, Radikal said.

The "roadmap" would involve releasing from custody thousands
of people accused of PKK links.

It would also lead to constitutional reforms removing
obstacles to Kurdish language education, strengthening local
administrations and an ethnically neutral definition of
citizenship, describing people as citizens of Turkey rather than
Turkish citizens.

There was no official confirmation of any agreement and
Radikal did not specify its sources but it is generally regarded
as being reliable on the Kurdish issue.

Ocalan's demands appeared to be limited, with no references
to an independent Kurdistan, a federation or the concept of
"democratic autonomy" which has been proposed by Kurdish
politicians, according to the report.

While there was cautious optimism regarding the prospect of
negotiations in Ankara, violence continued in the southeast.

Fourteen PKK fighters and a Turkish soldier were killed
overnight after a group of militants, located in northern Iraq
some 8 km (5 miles) from the border, opened fire on a military
outpost, the local governor's office said.

Since the PKK took up arms in 1984 violence has been focused
in Turkey's mountainous southeast border region with Iran, Iraq
and Syria but bomb attacks have also been staged in cities.

Talks with the PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey,
the United States and the European Union, would have been
unthinkable only a few years ago. Ocalan is widely reviled by
Turks who hold him directly responsible for the bloodshed.

Many Turks rejoiced when Ocalan was hounded from a series of
Middle East hideouts, denied refuge in Europe and finally
tracked to Kenya by Turkish special forces in 1999.

Television footage at the time showed him strapped into the
seat of a plane transporting him to Ankara, flanked by masked
soldiers. After a televised trial, he was sentenced to death
while crowds chanted "hang, hang, hang" outside the court.

Demirtas said Ocalan, held on the island of Imrali since his
capture, had shown a determination to work towards peace but
that progress would depend on the government.

His own party, which is popular in the mainly Kurdish
southeast, should be involved in any talks, Demirtas added.

PKK DEMANDS ACCESS TO OCALAN

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has played down the
concessions which Turkey would make to end the conflict, ruling
out the prospect of Ocalan being released from Imrali and placed
under house arrest or a general amnesty.

Erdogan is under pressure to stem the violence, Turkey's
main domestic security concern, particularly with presidential
elections due in 2014 in which he is expected to stand.

From his prison cell, Ocalan has not been able to express
his views on the process directly as he has not had access to
his lawyers for 16 months, although he has had a meeting with
Kurdish politicians.

The main opposition CHP party expressed support for the
process for the sake of ending the bloodshed but said parties in
parliament needed to work together to achieve a solution.

The leader of the nationalist MHP was fierce in his
criticism of the state talks with the "Imrali monster".

"Prime Minister Erdogan has crossed a threshold and dropped
the government's anchor in the bloody port of separatist
terror," the MHP's Devlet Bahceli told his deputies.

There was a cautious response from senior PKK commander
Murat Karayilan in northern Iraq, who said the active PKK
leadership must be given direct access to Ocalan himself.

"The (PKK) armed forces are what is fundamentally important.
For that reason we must have direct dialogue with the leader,"
Karayilan said in an interview with a news agency close to the
militants.

"There is the problem of convincing the broad command
structure and fighters, not just the leadership," he said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130108/update-1-turkey-ocalan-map-out-steps-end-kurdish-conflict