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U.S. upbeat on Turkey's prospects

  |   May 3, 2013 at 12:06 PM
ANKARA, Turkey, May 3 (UPI) -- While the U.S. government won't comment on Turkish internal affairs, there is a keen sense of optimism about its future, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey said.

Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the group known by its Kurdish initials PKK, called on militants to leave Turkish territory following discussions with government officials.

Murat Karayilan, the PKK military commander, said a new era would begin with the gradual withdrawal fighters starting next week.

The U.S. government lists the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization.

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said he wasn't going to comment on Turkey's internal affairs but was upbeat in general on the country's prospects.

"We are thoroughly optimistic about Turkey. We are optimistic about its future, its culture and democracy and we support Turkey," he was quoted by Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman as saying. "We stand by Turkey."

Turkey is a key NATO ally. The alliance has missile systems deployed along the Turkish border to protect against spillover from the Syrian war.

Pro-Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey said the militants would get political training in northern Iraq when they leave.

Conflicts between the PKK and the Turkish military claimed about 40,000 lives since in the 1980s.

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