Turkish forces to stay put as PKK leaves

April 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, April 29 (UPI) -- There are no plans to withdraw military forces from southeastern Turkey ahead of a planned PKK withdrawal, the Turkish General Staff said.

Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, called on guerrilla forces to lay down arms and abandon Turkish territory following a series of talks with Turkish government officials.

The PKK has since started the withdrawal process. Pro-Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey said fighters would redeploy to northern Iraq for political training.

The Turkish General Staff said it doesn't plan to give up its positions in southeastern Turkey during the withdrawal, Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman reports.

PKK supporters expressed frustration that departing forces didn't have security guarantees from the military. The military had launched assaults on departing PKK forces during similar efforts to abandon Turkish territory.

The Turkish government said it was ceding to the provincial authorities regarding any reaction to the PKK withdrawal. At least 40,000 people have died in fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military since the 1980s.

A phased formal withdrawal is expected to begin next week.

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