Kurdish leader to call for ceasefire

AFP-JIJI

Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has confirmed he will call for a “historic” ceasefire Thursday, the start of the Kurdish New Year, a lawmaker said after meeting the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) chief.

“I continue with my preparations to make a (ceasefire) call on March 21, during the Newroz celebrations. The declaration I am going to make will be historic,” Ocalan wrote in a letter read to reporters by lawmaker Selahattin Demirtas on Monday.

The text outlined the PKK leader’s plans for a possible end to the three-decade-long conflict between the group and Turkish security forces, which that has cost 45,000 lives, mostly Kurdish. Thursday’s call is expected to be the result of written consultations between Ocalan, pro-Kurdish lawmakers and PKK bodies in northern Iraq and Europe, held under the close monitoring of Turkish agents.

Ocalan, 64, is currently serving a life sentence on an isolated island prison off Istanbul where visitors are rarely allowed and only under the surveillance of Turkish agents. Observers say his influence over the movement might have waned during his years in prison, although he still enjoys strong support from Turkey’s Kurds, who make up roughly 20 percent of the country’s population of 75 million.