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PKK move good for Turkey, EU envoy says

May 9, 2013 at 10:49 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, May 9 (UPI) -- The European Union welcomes Turkish efforts to bring peace to the country's southeast, EU Ambassador to Turkey Jean-Maurice Ripert said.

Fighters with the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, started a phased withdrawal Wednesday. The departure follows talks between jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and Turkish authorities.

Ripert said the decision to reach out to the PKK leader was a "courageous" step by the Turkish government, Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman reports.

The European Union lists the PKK as a terrorist organization. A key leader of the organization was shot dead in Paris in January.

Ripert said the decision was a good step for Turkey. More than 40,000 people died during fighting that began when the PKK took up arms against the Turkish military in the 1980s.

"We think the (settlement) process can have a positive impact on populations and civil society in the southeast (of the country)," he said.

Ripert said the European Union wasn't considering removing the PKK from its terrorism list in response to the withdrawal.

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