Jailed Kurd leader warns Turkey peace process cannot remain in 'limbo'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 11:29pm


Jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has warned that the peace process initiated with the Turkish state cannot remain in limbo forever and urged the government to act. 

"Despite all the obstacles, our will for peace remains as determined as it was on the very first day … but it should be known that it cannot remain in limbo forever," Ocalan said in a statement on Saturday. His message was relayed by pro-Kurdish lawmakers who had visited him on an island prison off Istanbul.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) declared a truce last March after months of clandestine negotiations with the Turkish spy agency.

But the peace process stalled in September after Kurdish rebels announced they were suspending their retreat from Turkish soil, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promised reforms.

The PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, launched an insurgency seeking self-rule in the southeast in 1984 that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

"If war is hell, peace is paradise," Ocalan said.

"We removed one of our feet from hell but we've been waiting in limbo because the obstacles are blocking us from taking the other foot out."

In December, the Turkish government submitted to parliament a package of reforms aimed at boosting the rights of the country's Kurdish community.

But Kurds say the reforms fall short of their expectations and also demand the release of Kurdish prisoners and political activists and the lifting of restrictions on Kurdish-language education in state schools.

"Now is actually the time to make legal arrangements which have been dragging so far for various reasons," said Ocalan.

He also made a reference to a crisis sparked by a corruption probe engulfing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

In his statement, Ocalan added: "The latest developments show that anti-democratic powers longing for war both inside and outside will speed up their conspiracy unless the [peace] process is finalised possible, and a fully democratic country is built."