Kurdish militants set for Turkey ceasefire in February: paper

Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:23am EST
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By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Kurdish militants will halt hostilities with Turkey in February according to the timetable of a fledgling peace process aimed at ending 28 years of insurgency, a report in a mainstream newspaper said on Tuesday.

Turkish intelligence officials began talks with jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012 and preliminary talks have also been held with PKK members in northern Iraq, where most of the group's several thousand militants are based, it said.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in fighting since the rebels took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey. The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union, has since moderated its goal to one of autonomy.

The conflict is the chief domestic problem facing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan after 10 years in power.

"According to the timetable on the table, the PKK will announce its decision to halt hostilities in February right after an official call by Abdullah Ocalan," the paper said.

As an initial confidence-building step, around 100 PKK fighters will hand in their weapons and leave Turkey, the Hurriyet daily said.

Hurriyet, which is regarded as authoritative on security-related matters, did not identify its sources and there was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.

When asked about the report, PKK spokesman Roj Welat said the group had not as yet declared any ceasefire.   Continued...

Demonstrators hold flags with portraits of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan during a protest in Strasbourg February 18, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler