PKK Extends Truce, Thousands March for Peace

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DIYARBAKIR (AFP)–The Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey said Wednesday they would extend a four-month truce, as thousands of Kurds marched in their main city of Diyarbakir to call for peace.

The unilateral truce, first announced by the PKK in March, had been due to expire on Wednesday but will now continue until September 1.

The extension was decided in anticipation of a “roadmap for a democratic solution” which jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is to propose in August, senior PKK commander Murat Karayilan told the Firat news agency.

“In order to lay the ground for the roadmap… we have decided to extend the non-action period until September 1,” he said. “Within this period, our forces will not take any military action apart from fighting in self-defense that could be forced upon us.”

He said the PKK “places great importance on the roadmap and already officially declares that it will stand behind it.”

In Diyarbakir, the largest city of the Kurdish-majority southeast, about 25,000 people took to the streets, calling for peace and chanting “Enough is enough,” as police enforced tight security measures.

Senior lawmakers from the Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which organized the march, said the 25-year Kurdish conflict should be resolved on the basis of “democratic autonomy,” similar to that of Spain’s Basque region.

The DTP, they said, would unveil in the coming days proposals for a constitutional reform that would guarantee Kurdish rights.
Demonstrators shouted slogans praising Ocalan and brandished portraits of the rebel chieftain, who has been serving a life sentence for treason on a prison island in northwestern Turkey since 1999.

Karayilan charged that Ankara’s declared desire to resolve the conflict lacked “sincerity” and accused the government of seeking to weaken the PKK.

If Ankara “insists on policies of annihilation, I would like to emphasize that our movement is stronger than ever and in a position to defend itself,” he said.

Ankara has never formally recognized PKK’s unilateral truces and military operations against the rebels have continued.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms for self determination in 1984, after decades of state sponsored oppression of Turkey’ Kurdish minority. Their demands for autonomy were met with the force of the Turkish army, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 44,000 lives, mostly Kurdish.

In May, President Abdullah Gul urged swift measures to end the conflict, stressing that “increasing democratic standards” was the way to resolve it.
His appeal revived debate on how to proceed on the Kurdish issue amid media speculation that the government may consider fresh steps to win over the Kurdish community and encourage the PKK to lay down arms.

Eager to boost its EU membership bid, Ankara has in recent years granted the Kurds a series of cultural freedoms, but failed to draw up a specific strategy to convince the PKK to end its armed struggle.

The government rules out dialogue with the PKK and has rejected calls to consider a general amnesty.

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