Sunday, June 19, 2011

Turkey: Ocalan extends PKK ceasefire

Erbil, June 18 (Aknews) – The imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, has ordered the extension a ceasefire he declared nearly a year ago to give the Turkish authorities another chance to engage in talks to come up with a solution to the country's Kurdish issue, reports Turkish newspaper the Sabah daily.Abdullah Ocalan

Ocalan's lawyers said their client has called for an extension of the ceasefire despite his threat in May to resume the armed conflict with the Turkish state if the Turkish authorities did not agree to enter talks with the PKK.

The paper quotes Ocalan's lawyers as saying the leader is continuing talks with state officials to reach a solution to the Kurdish issue through "a democratic constitution"

The PKK was formed in South-east Turkey by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978.

Formerly a peaceful group made up of students, the PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.

The group has been fighting for greater political and cultural rights for Turkey's 20 million Kurds for nearly three decades.

Around 45,000 people have died in the war against the Turkish military so far, many of them civilians.

Ocalan was arrested in Nairobi in 1999 and is still imprisoned under Turkish custody on the remote Imrali Island.

Since this time, the PKK's struggle has been continued on the political arena

Turkey has officially refused to negotiate with the PKK which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S.

PKK spokesman Ahmet Deniz told AKnews last week that the PKK was waiting for the orders of their leader as to whether they would extend their ceasefire or not.

The PKK has declared 8 unilateral ceasefires over the years in favor of finding peaceful means to resolve the issue,  but the Turkish state - which along with the US and the EU lists the organization as a "terrorist group - has officially refused to enter into negotiations with them.

Ocalan, along with other pro-Kurdish groups, have been calling for reforms to the Turkish constitution that recognize their Kurdish identity, give them the right to education in their mother tongue and provide them with 'democratic autonomy'- a form of self-rule.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan who's party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured him a second term in office (the AKP's 3rd consecutive term), in the June 12 elections, has promised to write a new constitution.

However, having won 326 seats in the 550-member parliament, the AKP fell short of the 367 seat quota to be able to unilaterally draft a new constitution. Erdogan will now need the backing of other parties for the purpose including the Kurds who secured 36 seats.

The Kurds have repeatedly announced that they will not give their vote to a rewritten constitution that fails to address their demands.

Written by Raber Y. Aziz, reporting by Abdulqadir al-Wandawi