PKK leader Öcalan could call unilateral ceasefire – Kurdish politician

The jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) could call for a unilateral ceasefire, according to Altan Tan, a former parliamentary deputy who was closely involved in the failed peace process between 2013 and 2015, Turkish news site Gazete Duvar reported.

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan could call on the group to lay down its weapons in the coming week, said Tan, a former deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who was involved in talks with Öcalan at İmralı prison during the failed peace process.

The PKK has intermittently fought the Turkish state since launching a separatist insurrection in 1984. The organisation later changed its aims to focus on Kurdish rights and self-governance.

The peace process launched in 2013 collapsed two years later after militants believed to be linked to the PKK assassinated two Turkish police officers. However, the process had already been under severe strain due to the conflict in neighbouring Syria, which had led to the mobilisation of large militias under PKK-affiliated organisations.

Four years since the resumption of the conflict, Tan believes the PKK leader is preparing to call for a unilateral ceasefire in order to pave the way for a new peace process.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lifted a ban on visit to Öcalan in İmralı prison this year, allowing his lawyers to visit for the first time in eight years. The latest visit was held this week.

“The subject of the meeting hasn’t been announced yet, but as far as I understand it, my expectation is that in the coming period there will be a call from İmralı for the PKK to lay down its arms and for a return to the 2013 process”, Tan said.

The former deputy said the call could come this week or next.

Though Öcalan is still regarded by many as the ideological leader of the Kurdish political movement, it is unclear whether a call for a ceasefire would sway the current leadership of the PKK.

In recent months, Turkish security forces have confronted PKK-linked militants in Turkey’s southeast and in the northern Iraqi Qandil mountains, a PKK stronghold regarded as the group’s headquarters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also been aggressively pushing for a military operation against the YPG, which controls large areas of north and north east Syria.

Tan said the complex situation would make a peace process difficult to realise, but that this was the only solution that would allow for a compromise in northern Syria, where the YPG and its political wing have set up autonomous local governments.