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Kurdish rebel chief urges 'meaningful' peace talks

  • Article by: SUZAN FRASER
  • Associated Press
  • October 14, 2013 - 12:30 PM

ANKARA, Turkey — The imprisoned leader of the Kurdish rebels on Monday called for the start of "meaningful and deep" talks with Turkey to end a nearly three-decade-old conflict.

Abdullah Ocalan's message was relayed by Kurdish lawmakers days after his rebel group, which is engaged in peace talks with Turkey, accused Turkish leaders of not taking enough steps toward granting greater rights for the Kurdish minority. The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, also warned it could end a unilateral cease-fire that began six months ago.

The PKK already has suspended a planned pullout from Turkish territory into bases in northern Iraq, saying Turkey has not kept its promises.

Last month, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a package of reforms to help restore momentum to the peace process. The proposals included lifting some restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language, but the rebel group and Kurdish politicians said those steps fell short of expectations.

Ocalan said he still hopes for a solution but warned that "in-depth" negotiations must start soon.

"I have presented my proposals to the state... I am waiting to see the state's position toward the start of meaningful and deep negotiations," Ocalan said in his message. He did not provide any details on his proposals.

Ocalan is leading the peace talks with Turkey from a prison island off Istanbul, where he is serving a life term.

The PKK has fought Turkey for autonomy for Kurds in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

Kurds, who make up an estimated 20 percent of Turkey's some 75 million people, have faced decades of discrimination including restrictions on the use of their language.

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