Ocalan Tells Turkey It Can Help Itself By Granting Regional Autonomy to Kurds

ANKARA (Agence France Presse)–Jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan urged Turkey on Friday to grant its Kurdish community regional autonomy in order to resolve a 22-year conflict and avoid the kind of turmoil seen in Iraq. "I believe it is vital for Turkey to have a strategic alliance with the Kurds," Ocalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), said in a statement relayed by his lawyers, who met him on the prison island of Imrali. "What I mean is for Turkey to make peace with the Kurds living on its territory and recognize their democratic autonomy," he explained. "Let the Kurds have regional parliamen’s and governmen’s." Ocalan argued that such a step would not damage Turkey’s territorial integrity but actually strengthen it. "Otherwise, Turkey will turn into another Iraq," he warned. Ocalan said that he had no desire for independence, but added that Kurds in the region would opt for breaking away if Turkey, Iran and Syria insist on what he called their policies of oppression. "This is not an option we desire because we know it will not provide a solution but bring about a disaster," Ocalan said. Since his capture and conviction for treason in 1999, Ocalan has said on several occasions that he wants greater political and cultural rights for the Kurds and denied intentions to carve up an independent Kurdish homeland. The Ankara government categorically rules out Ocalan and the PKK as an interlocutor in the Kurdish conflict and is cool to suggestions to give its Kurdish community any measure of autonomy.

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