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Kurdish Militant Group Pledges to Withdraw from Turkey

By May 8, all PKK fighters will withdraw from Turkey, the group’s commander said in a speech yesterday. The PKK—the Kurdistan Workers’ Party—has fought a war against Turkey for over three decades at a cost of tens of thousands of casualties. In recent months there have been hopeful yet tentative signals from both sides that the war is winding down. Yesterday’s speech by Kurdish commander Murat Karayilan from the PKK’s base in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq is a demonstration of good will from the militant Kurdish group.

Mr. Karayilan, in a statement read in Turkish and summarized in English, outlined the process by which the P.K.K. expected the government to meet its end of the bargain, by giving the Kurds further democratic rights under a new constitution and releasing Kurdish prisoners, including the P.K.K.’s highly influential primary founder, Abdullah Ocalan. However, he refused demands by the Turkish government that rebels disarm before leaving the country, and said his militants would carry weapons strictly for self-defense. He also suggested that foreign observers monitor the withdrawal for any misconduct on either side, reported NTV, a private TV network.

The Kurds, it should be remembered, are scattered across northern Iraq, Syria, and southern Turkey, and play a significant role in both the Syrian civil war and Iraq’s current political turmoil. Kurdish leaders might have taken a look around and decided to reduce the number of entanglements in which their forces are caught up; the same goes for Turkey. With Syria boiling over, neither can afford to fight too many battles at once.

No matter the reason, the fact that the peace process is moving forward is a good sign. But ceasefires have been ruined and the peace process derailed by one side or the other numerous times over the years. We’ll wait and see what happens before calling an end to the Kurdish battle with Turkey once and for all.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Isn’t it obvious that tribal loyalties don’t respect modern political boundaries? And wouldn’t it make sense for Turkey, Syria and Iraq to agree to the establishment of a Kurdistan nation so that the Sunnis and Shiites can concentrate on their war?

  • USNK2

    Kurds, probable descendants of the Medes, are not scattered: they live in their homeland, which happens to be the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and includes part of western Iran.
    Both Iraqi Kurdistan and Iranian Kurdistan are members of, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples. Membership requires a commitment to non-violence. Taiwan and Tibet are members.
    Most of Pakistan and Iran are disputed by members: Sindh, Baluchis in both ‘nations’, Azeris, Turkmen.
    The Turks are the Occupation, of Anatolia, and it is the Turks who have waged war on the Kurds.
    I wish Mr. Mead had a better research team if he is going to cover so many topics.

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