Diyarbakir (Turkey) (AFP) – Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan on Saturday called for Kurds to hold a historic congress to end a decades-long armed struggle against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
In an eagerly-anticipated message for the traditional Kurdish New Year, Ocalan however stopped short of setting out a clear road map for disarmament of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels as had been anticipated in some quarters.
In the message read out by a pro-Kurdish lawmaker to hundreds of thousands of supporters in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Ocalan said that the armed struggle had been “painful” and could no longer be maintained.
“A congress should be organised to bring an end to the 40-year struggle against the Turkish Republic,” Ocalan said in the message read out by Sirri Sureyya Onder of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
Ocalan is serving a life sentence on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara following his sensational arrest by Turkish agents in Kenya in 1999.