Leave empty-handed, Erdogan tells PKK

May 7, 2013 at 11:24 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, May 7 (UPI) -- Turkish fighters with the Kurdistan Workers' Party need to leave their weapons behind as they leave the country, the Turkish prime minister said Tuesday.

Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of a militant group known by its Kurdish initials, PKK, said following talks with Turkish officials that guerrilla forces would leave the country.

PKK commanders said fighters would withdraw but wouldn't abandon their weapons unless Ocalan was freed, Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman reports.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday the fighters needed to leave their weapons behind as they leave for northern Iraq.

"The fundamental point (about the withdrawal) is that they will leave the country by having left their weapons," he was quoted as saying.

Pro-Kurdish lawmakers said they were frustrated by the lack of security guarantees for departing fighters. Nationalist Movement Party Director Devlet Bahceli said it would be "a crime" to let them leave without prosecution.

The separatist PKK started its campaign against the Turkish military in the 1980s. Fighting has claimed more than 40,000 lives on both sides since it began.

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