Kurdish rebels may free kidnapped Turkish state officials in 10 days: report

AFP , Saturday 2 Mar 2013

Turkey may sign peace agreement with PKK ahead of release of 10 Turkish kidnapped officials by PKK and scores of Kurdish activists on Turkish side

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 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 Irbil.

Turkey's spy agency resumed negotiations with jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan late last year with the ultimate aim of ending nearly three decades of violence that 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 21 March, the day of the Kurdish new year, and lay down its arms by August.

Both sides in the conflict have set 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 hostages it holds, 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.

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