News / Europe

Erdogan Hails Kurd Rebel Pullout as End of 'Dark Era'

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara, April 16, 2013 file photo.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara, April 16, 2013 file photo.
Reuters
— Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday hailed the planned withdrawal of Kurdish rebel fighters from Turkey as the end of a "dark era"' but warned against potential sabotage of a historic peace process.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which seeks autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish southeast, on Thursday ordered its fighters in Turkey to begin withdrawing to its main base in the mountains of northern Iraq under a carefully choreographed peace plan.

The withdrawal, due to begin on May 8, follows months of negotiations between Turkish intelligence officers and Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK's jailed leader, to try to end hostilities after the bloodiest fighting in a decade erupted in June 2011. More than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died in the conflict since 1984.

"The door is closing on a dark era. Turkey is changing its ill fortune and is entering a new phase," Erdogan told a business group in comments broadcast live by state television, his first since the withdrawal was announced.

"No one should try to pull this process in a different direction," he added. "We remain vigilant against sabotage, against provocations, but today we are much more hopeful, determined and optimistic."

Some 2,000 PKK rebels are set to retreat in small groups in a process that will take months and is to be monitored by Turkish intelligence on one side and the Kurdish regional government in Iraq on the other.

The withdrawal is a significant advance in a process offering the best chance in more than a decade of ending a conflict that has blotted Turkey's human rights record and stunted economic growth.

Yet nationalists have slammed the jailhouse negotiations with Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence for treason, arguing that it means surrender to the demands of "terrorists."

Others have asked what the government has promised Ocalan in return for a PKK withdrawal.

Erdogan's government is now expected to tackle some of the political reforms sought by Kurds, including constitutional changes on citizenship, changes to anti-terrorism laws and broader Kurdish cultural and political rights.

Since sweeping to power 10 years ago, Erdogan has ushered in major changes for Turkey's estimated 14 million Kurds, especially in allowing more use of the Kurdish language, which was completely banned until two decades ago.

But his government has also clamped down on Kurdish political activity, jailing thousands of elected officials, journalists, academics, activists and others from the main Kurdish opposition during trials that are taking years to complete.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid