Last updated: 2 March, 2013

Kurdish rebels may free kidnapped Turks in 10 days

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) may release Turkish state officials it is holding within 10 days as part of a renewed push for peace with Turkey, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish party said on Saturday.

“I hope the state officials held by the PKK will reach their families within a week or 10 days,” Gulten Kisanak of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil.

Turkey’s spy agency resumed negotiations with jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan late last year with an ultimate objective of ending the nearly three-decade violence which has claimed over 40,000 lives, mostly Kurdish.

Ocalan is currently serving a life sentence on an island prison off Istanbul where visitors are seldom allowed and only under the surveillance of Turkish agents.

The Kurdish rebel group, branded a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies, is expected to declare a ceasefire on March 21, the day of the Kurdish new year and lay down arms by August.

Both sides in the conflict have laid down conditions to show their commitment to long-lasting peace according to media revelations after Ocalan’s rare meeting with three Kurdish lawmakers in his island prison last month.

Speaking through three visiting BDP lawmakers, Ocalan said both sides held “prisoners” and that he hoped to see them “reach their families.”

His remarks were interpreted in the media as a message to the PKK to release its hostages, including Turkish state officials.

The Kurdish movement is asking for the release of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Kurdish activists and politicians kept in detention on charges of links to the PKK.

Ankara insists “terrorists” need to withdraw from Turkish territory before the peace process can effectively begin, and has promised not to attack rebels wishing to leave the country.