BRUSSELS, March 22 (UPI) -- A call by the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party to end its violent campaign in Turkey is a change for the better, top European diplomats said.
Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the group known by the Kurdish initials PKK, called on fighters to lay down their weapons and withdraw from Turkish territory. The PKK has waged war against the Turkish government since the 1980s.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule welcomed the call by Ocalan.
"This is a further important step forward in the ongoing process aimed at ending a conflict which has claimed far too many victims," their statement read. "We look forward to concrete follow-up and implementation."
The European Parliament passed a resolution this week stating that settling the Kurdish issue in Turkey could move the country closer to the European community.
The U.S. government sanctioned the PKK as a terrorist organization in 1997. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the effort gives Turkey an opportunity to chart a better future.
"We applaud the courageous efforts of the government of Turkey and all parties concerned to achieve a peaceful resolution that will advance democracy in Turkey and improve the lives of all of Turkey's citizens," she said.