Government expects PKK cease-fire before March 21

The government has voiced hopes that Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), could issue a call for a cease-fire before March 21, Nevruz, as part of the country’s fledgling peace process.

“If the process continues on a positive course like it did initially, before March 21, a declaration, communication or – like how they [PKK members] say – an instruction may come from Öcalan,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said yesterday in an interview with private news channel A Haber.

“I assume that this process cannot be related to an immediate disarmament, but they should certainly make a decision about a cease-fire. Afterwards, I hope there will be an announcement or a proclamation which says that ‘weapons should be silenced from now on,’” he said.

March 21 is Nevruz, a regional spring festival that is of crucial importance for Kurdish people.

“If March 21 is very significant and if Öcalan’s promise has a meaning before March 21, this may happen; there is no reason for it not to happen,” he said, while expressing some caution. “Actually, expediting the dates this much could be too optimistic. It might evoke a great expectation, too.”

Arınç’s statement came a day after the PKK handed over eight captives to Turkish officials in a sign of goodwill and before the PKK’s leadership in northern Iraq and Europe send letters to Öcalan in response to missives sent by Öcalan via a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) delegation during a meeting on Feb. 23.

The process will continue as planned after correspondence between Öcalan and the PKK is completed. A third BDP delegation is soon set to travel to İmralı island, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence, officials said.

“Our government is committed to the successful accomplishment of the process. We are at a point to start to talk [about what would happen] afterwards following the PKK’s disarmament and departure from [Turkish] soil,” he said.

Turkey’s steps to address the demands of the Kurds will follow only after the PKK drops its weapons, Arınç said.

‘Excellent strategy’

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay also elaborated on the course of the peace process, saying it was “very positive” while adding that the government was implementing a very good strategy to address the problem.

While refusing to give a precise date for the PKK’s disarmament, Atalay said the ultimate goal of the process was to end the group’s armed struggle.

“We are behind a lasting solution. We are hoping that immediate results will be obtained in line with expectations,” he said.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, for his part, refuted allegations that Öcalan may deliver his call on the PKK for declaring a ceasefire through audiovisual system which would be set at a square in Diyarbakır on March 21, saying that such claims are not worth even to comment on it.

BDP deputy Adil Kurt, speaking in southeastern province of Batman, also denied such claims and called them as “speculation.”




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