Turkey tells Kurdish rebels to lay down arms in March

Turkey is also urging PKK to relaunch peace talks to end three decades of conflict

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Turkey’s government has demanded that the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) lay down its arms on March 21, the Kurdish New Year, and relaunch peace talks to end three decades of conflict.

In what appeared to be the first direct appeal by a government official to the PKK, Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan should call for a disarmament just as he did in the Kurdish New Year, or Newroz, in 2013.

“There must be a call for laying down all arms and ending actions against Turkey,” at Newroz, Akdogan told the private A Haber channel late Wednesday.

He added that such a call would be “meaningful,” but lamented that previous calls by Ocalan had been ignored.

“Ocalan definitely has a role. He has clout with the PKK organization’s constituents. However, we know that this role is being undermined by the organization from time to time,” he said.

In 2013 Ocalan called for a “historic” ceasefire, telling his fighters to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil, after many months of secret negotiations with the Turkish government.

But the peace talks stalled in September 2013, when the insurgents said they were suspending their pullout from Turkish soil after accusing Ankara of failing to deliver on promised reforms.

However the peace process appeared to be making progress until a standoff over the key Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane late last year and a recent surge in violence in the country’s southeast.

Akdogan said the government remained very optimistic about the prospects for peace with the PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies.

“We, the government, are the guardian of this process. It is on track and the talks are ongoing,” he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also vowed that peace with the Kurds would be achieved, seeking support from the country’s largest minority group ahead of the parliamentary elections in June.

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