‘PKK ready to call ceasefire and hold peace talks’

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Kurdish militants will halt hostilities with Turkey in February according to the timetable of a fledgling peace process aimed at ending 28 years of insurgency, a major Turkish newspaper has reported.

Turkish intelligence officials began talks with jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012 and preliminary talks have been held with PKK members in northern Iraq, where most of the group’s several thousand militants are based, Hurriyet reported.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in fighting since the rebels took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish state in south-eastern Turkey. The PKK – designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union – has since moderated its goal to one of autonomy.

The conflict is the chief domestic problem facing prime minister Tayyip Erdogan after ten years in power.

“According to the timetable on the table, the PKK will announce its decision to halt hostilities in February right after an official call by Abdullah Ocalan,” Hurriyet said. It added that, as a confidence-building step, about 100 PKK fighters will hand in their weapons and leave Turkey.

Hurriyet – regarded as authoritative on security-related matters – did not identify its sources and there was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.

When asked about the report, PKK spokesman Roj Welat said the group had not as yet officially declared any ceasefire.

The militants have announced unilateral ceasefires in the past, but these have been ignored by Turkish security forces.

Under a framework discussed with Mr Ocalan, all PKK fighters will eventually disarm after the withdrawal from Turkey. In return, the government will improve the rights of Kurds, who make up 20 per cent of Turkey’s population of 76 million.