Jailed Kurdish leader says peace talks with Turkey entered new phase

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 21, 2014 4:10 PM

By Humeyra Pamuk

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The jailed Kurdish separatist leader said on Tuesday the peace process with the Turkish government had entered a new phase since Oct. 15 and he was upbeat over the chances of success.

The mid-October date had been seen by some as a deadline for the shaky peace negotiations, which took a blow two weeks ago when at least 35 people died in the worst unrest in Turkey's southeast in years.

Thousands of Kurds took to the streets and demonstrated against what they saw as Ankara's refusal to help protect their kin in Kobani, a besieged Syrian Kurdish border town which has been battling Islamic State militants for over a month.

A call for calm by Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), helped end the violent street protests that had risked reigniting a conflict that has killed 40,000 people since 1984.

On Tuesday, Ocalan called the riots as "breaking point" in the peace negotiations.

"As per the point we have reached, the narrowness of the current approach and the fact that it will not serve for peace have been understood sufficiently by the parties," Ocalan said in a statement released by the People's Democratic Party (HDP).

Repeating his call to avert further bloodshed and keep the peace process on track, Ocalan said his hopes of a solution had been boosted.

"I would like to express that we have entered a new phase as of October 15 regarding the process that concerns Turkey's democratic future...and my hopes over a successful execution in this process are increased," Ocalan said.

The statement was released after a delegation from the Kurdish HDP visited him in prison on a remote island in Turkey's northwestern Marmara Sea, where he has spent the last 15 years since his capture in Kenya in 1999.

October 15 was perceived as a deadline by many when Ocalan's brother Mehmet, after visiting him in jail earlier this month quoted him as saying: "We will wait until October 15...After that there will be nothing we can do."

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Ocalan's appeal for calm had failed to convince some militants, who attacked and killed police officers in Bingol province, while a PKK commander, Cemil Bayik, made clear in uncompromising language that he held ruling AK Party responsible for Kobani and the unrest in southeast Turkey.

On Tuesday, Ocalan called for faith in the peace process from the Kurdish community as well as bolder political moves.

"What we need here is trust for peace and democracy, a clearer will and bolder political moves...As the people of this land, it is our historical debt not to distract from our own solution," he said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Angus MacSwan)