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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Kurdish militants will withdraw from Turkish territory by the Kurdish new year on March 21 under a peace process to end a conflict in which 40,000 people have been killed, a newspaper close to the government said on Thursday.

The withdrawal of the militants to northern Iraq, where most of the PKK's several thousand fighters are based, is planned to begin at the start of March as the weather in southeast Turkey starts to become milder, the Sabah daily reported.

Turkish officials have been in talks with jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan since late 2012 and he was expected to issue a call within 10 days for the militants to declare a ceasefire, the paper said.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Jon Boyle)

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