Kurd leader says still hopeful of Turkey peace deal

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Jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan said Monday he was still hopeful a peace deal with the Turkish state was possible but argued that Ankara needed to shift the process into a new gear.

“The process that we started last year has great meaning,” the leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said in a statement relayed by pro-Kurdish lawmakers who visited him in prison.

“I still have hope for this process,” he said, warning however that “meaningful and result-oriented negotiations” were urgently needed to avoid a collapse of efforts to end the three-decade rebellion that has left more than 40,000 dead.

“I have presented my proposals to the state both in writing and verbally. I am waiting for the state’s response for meaningful, deep negotiations,” Ocalan said, without elaborating.

In March, Ocalan declared a ceasefire after months of clandestine negotiations with the Turkish secret service.

But the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies, suspended its fighters’ promised pullout from Turkish soil last month, accusing Ankara of failing to hold its side of the bargain.

In exchange for a withdrawal of its forces to bases in Iraq, the PKK had demanded changes to the electoral system, right to education in the Kurdish language and a degree of regional autonomy.

On September 30, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a package of democratic reforms, many of them aimed at enhancing the rights of the sizeable Kurdish community.

However the PKK argued that the reforms fell short, accusing Erdogan of trying to buy time and being focused solely on the next election.

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