Potential ceasefire in Turkey
To mark the start of a new era during the Kurdish New Year, Abdullah Öcalan – the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – has called for a ceasefire to the twenty-nine year separatist conflict that has killed over 40,000 people.
As hundreds of thousands gathered in jubilation in the South Eastern Turkish city of Dayirbakir, Members of Parliament Pervin Buldan and Sırrı Süreyya Önder read from the ceasefire declaration in both Kurdish and Turkish.
The ceasefire has called for militants to lay down their arms, leave Turkish soil and develop a road map to peace with Öcalan adding “The fight is not against the Turkish state but the injustices against our people.”
Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence for treason and separatism, has been involved in months of negotiations between the PKK and the Turkish clandestine services in liaison with the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Although there have been four previous attempts at a ceasefire, this is the first time the Turkish government has publicised the news, which has been met with celebration by many who have lived through the recently intensifying conflict.
Since Ankara acknowledged the nascent peace talks between Öcalan and Turkish agents in December 2012, there have been a plethora of rumors of a lasting peace deal that have now been confirmed by today’s letter.
The recent ceasefire has been seen by Ankara as a particularly positive step towards safeguarding Turkey’s security, which has recently been threatened by the build-up of Democratic Union Party (PYD) Kurdish Syrians aligned with the PKK, arriving from Syria’s vicious civil war.
The distrust between the PKK and the Turkish government in Ankara is still apparent, as Turkish Nationalist voices have said the Turkish PM Erdoğan was “selling the country out to a bunch of bloody bandits.”
Furthermore, many Kurds see Erdoğan as having a lot to gain from neutralising the PKK and safeguarding Turkey’s borders while reducing the emerging threat from Syria.
Additionally, if Erdoğan is able to develop a roadmap to peace with Öcalan, he would also be in a greater position to acquire the Kurdish vote needed in parliament to amend the constitution and ascend the greasy pole to secure his aspiration to become President.
Both Öcalan and Erdoğan will seal their political fate with the outcome of this ceasefire and whether or not a path to peace can be formulated.
The formal ceasefire declaration by the PKK leadership, based in the Northern Iraqi mountains, is expected to follow shortly.