PKK withdrawal may begin this week

April 15, 2013 at 12:40 PM
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ANKARA, Turkey, April 15 (UPI) -- The separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party could start leaving Turkish territory with the next several days, a member of a pro-Kurdish political party said Monday.

Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the group known by its Kurdish initials PKK, said he'd outline formal withdrawal plans this week. He agreed last month to persuade PKK fighters to abandon Turkish territory in a deal that could end fighting simmering since the 1980s.

Deputy Chairman of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party Idris Baluken said the withdrawal process would evolve this week.

"When we take a look at the ongoing process, we see that the PKK first started with a cease-fire and it will launch the withdrawal process within several days with concrete steps being taken for disarmament," he was quoted by Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman as saying.

Ocalan said in a weekend statement the peace process was moving forward at "full speed." The Turkish newspaper reports that Ocalan is expected to make some an announcement ahead of a withdrawal process that could begin Thursday.

Today's Zaman estimates there about 2,000 fighters with the PKK inside Turkish territory. It reports that PKK members will try to leave the country while avoiding military installations in southeastern Turkey. It's unclear where they're headed.

Ocalan is expected to relay final orders to Baluken's party or to Turkish military officials. The PKK has said it wants security assurances from the Turkish government, though Turkish officials haven't pushed ahead with any guarantees.

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