Kurdish rebel leader sees Turkey pullout by August: media

Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:29am EST
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By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan is proposing to withdraw his fighters from Turkey by August if Ankara pushes through reforms under a draft plan to end a 28-year insurgency, media reports said on Wednesday.

Imprisoned on Imrali island near Istanbul since 1999, Ocalan has since October been discussing a deal with Turkey's government to end a conflict that has killed 40,000 people since his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984.

Under the plan, sent to Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party as well as the PKK leadership, the rebels would begin a formal ceasefire on March 21, the Kurdish New Year, said the Sabah and Star newspapers, which are close to the government.

The PKK is estimated to have around 2,000 fighters in Turkey, with several thousand more in bases in northern Iraq.

Their withdrawal from Turkish territory under the plan would be completed by August 15, the 29th anniversary of the start of a conflict that has destabilized Turkey and held back the development of its mainly Kurdish southeast.

The 20-page "road map", handwritten by Ocalan, has not been published and the accuracy of the reports could not be confirmed. They said Ocalan was due to finalize it in mid-March.

A member of parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which received the plan on Tuesday, played down the timetable in the Turkish media and said no decisions had been made.

Idris Baluken told Reuters that Ocalan had outlined his ideas in the document and had asked the BDP as well as the PKK leadership in northern Iraq and in Europe to respond with their thoughts in the next two weeks.   Continued...

A flag with the portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan is seen in front of the entrance of the Information Centre of Kurdistan in Paris, where three Kurdish women were found shot dead, January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann