PKK Says it Backs End to Fighting

ANKARA (Reuters)–Kurdish forces loyal to Abdullah Ocalan said Wednesday they had united behind their leader’s call to end their 15-year armed rebellion.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) statement followed reports of the PKK members splitting on whether to follow Ocalan’s peace moves.

It indicates the PKK intends to continue with a policy hat has brought relative peace and cautious optimism to Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

"Our congress…has confirmed the decision of the party leader to stop the armed struggle," said the statement faxed to Reuters.

The extraordinary congress–the first since Ocalan made his call for peace following his capture on February 15 last year–brought senior PKK commanders together for 20 days at a secret base thought to be in the mountains of northern Iraq or Iran.

Ocalan–known to friend and foe as "Apo," was snatched from Kenya by Turkish special forces last year and sentenced to death for leading the PKK’s armed campaign for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

After his capture Ocalan ordered his men to stop fighting–leave the country and prepare for a transformation into a peaceful–democratic–political party.

Turkey says it will never negotiate with people it calls "terrorists" and dismisses the new Kurdish stance as a ploy.

But the congress statement–upbeat and confident–said the organization was confident of the success of its new policy.

"The problems of Turkey will find resolution by democratic means. Apart from the warmongers–firstly it being in the interests of the society of Turkey–it is in the interests of all," the official English-language translation said.

"Long live the PKK marching to new successes on the shining path of President Apo," the statement concluded.

Turkish security officials say the Kurds have not disarmed or even fully withdrawn from Turkey’s borders.

But many PKK members have withdrawn to northern Iraq where they are engaged in heavy skirmishing with Kurdistan Democratic Party "pershmerga" fighters. The congress called for an end to the conflict with the KDP in Iraq.

Official Turkey sees the new peace policy as a ruse to help Ocalan avoid the gallows and for his guerrillas to win respite from military assaults.

Last June Ocalan was sentenced to hang but he is appealing his sentence to the European Court of Human Rights.

Turkey’s government has agreed to hold off on the execution process until the court rules on the appeal–but has said it could begin the process again if Ocalan issued any threatening statemen’s from jail through his lawyers.

The congress also announced changes to the PKK logo. The masthead of the statement showed a burning torch inside a star–replacing a hammer and sickle inside a star.

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