In Turkey, imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has called for an end to decades of fighting by his Kurdish rebel group, the PKK. The call was made in a letter to Kurds celebrating Nowruz, or new year, in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.
Hundreds of thousands of Kurds gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to celebrate Nowruz and hear from the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. In a letter read by parliamentary deputy Sirri Sureyya Onder of the pro-Kurdish HDP, Ocalan called for an end to the armed struggle by his PKK rebel group.
"We find it necessary for PKK to convene a congress to end the 40-year-long armed struggle against Turkish Republic and adapt itself to the spirit of new era," he said.
The letter also said that they were at an historical threshold in which history and peoples demand peace.
The PKK has been fighting for greater Kurdish rights since 1984 in a struggle that has claimed over 40,000 lives. But for the last 30 months there has been a peace process with the government and a largely observed cease-fire.
The announced congress of the rebel group is planned to discuss disarmament. But Ocalan, in his letter, gave no indication when the congress would be held.
Observers say the government could be disappointed, with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying he expected disarmament would start ahead of a general election in June.
Ocalan’s letter also did not answer criticisms from PKK military leaders in neighboring Iraq and Kurdish political leaders that the government should make concessions ahead of any disarmament.
In the letter Ocalan outlined principles for peace.
A new era for Kurds "would be based on free, egalitarian, constitutional citizenship within the Republic of Turkey," said Onder.
The government insists that all Kurdish demands would be met in a new constitution to be written after June’s general election, but refuses to divulge what concessions would be made.
Concerns among Kurdish political leaders increased this week with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying there was no Kurdish problem. Observers say Ocalan’s Newruz message was aimed as much at the government at his supporters.