PKK releases 8 hostages in solid step in peace process

PKK releases 8 hostages in solid step in peace process

PKK releases 8 hostages in solid step in peace process

Two soldiers released by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Reşat Çeçan (R) and Zihni Koç, hug with their family members. Eight public officers captured by the PKK were handed over yesterday to a group including lawmakers. AA photo

Public officers released by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were reunited with their families in Turkey on March 13, a concrete step in finding a peaceful solution to the ongoing Kurdish issue.

Eight public officers captured by the PKK were handed over to a group including Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers and non-governmental organization representatives in northern Iraq. “I want to assure you that [the release of hostages] is not a result of bargaining. We consider this a positive gesture and attitude in terms of the [ongoing peace process]. We are glad of that,” said Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay on March 12, defining the PKK’s move as a show of good intentions.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül told reporters during a visit to Sweden yesterday that it was “very pleasing to have our citizens back in Turkey after being far from the country for a long period without hearing any news from them.”

The prime minister extended his best wishes through phone calls to the eight hostages following their release.

Interior Minister Muammer Güler also commented on the release today, saying the transfer was made wihout a hitch.

“We received them without any mishaps occurring,” Güler said, adding that the peace process was not a matter of fulfilling the conditions or expectations of any group.

The eight hostages are district governor candidate Kenan Erenoğlu, Sgts. Zihni Koç and Kemal Ekinci, non-commissioned officer Abdullah Söpçeler, police officer Nadir Özgen, and soldiers Ramazan Başaran, Hadi Gizli and Reşat Çeçan.

After a health check, the hostages were sent to the airport along with their families and allowed home, Interior Minister Muammer Güler said. Some of the hostages left the Habur border gate by helicopter along with their families late today.

The hostages included soldiers, police officers and one local deputy administrator.

‘Wait for me at home’

Army Sergeant Söpçeler, who was kept at 640 days after being abducted from a remote road in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province, telephoned his wife after first hugging his father.
“Wait for me at home as always, I am coming,” Söpçeler told his wife.

Erenoğlu said he now feels at ease since he did the right thing.

“We are happy, we are at peace now. , I feel that everything is how it was supposed to be. I have both the feeling of doing eveyrthing right and that something is missing inside me which is due to what my family has been through,” Eroğlu said.

BDP Hakkari Deputy Adil Kurt told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday that they were pleased to mediate the release of the eight hostages. “We have seen that everyone is happy and hopeful with the ongoing process. The PKK officials clearly said during the handover that ‘We have no condition for a handover. We are releasing you upon the call of our leader Öcalan,’” he said. “Turkey must understand [the importance of] this step. This process should result in peace.”

The handover took place in the Amediye district of northern Iraq, 30 kilometers from the Turkish border. Members of Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) responsible for the security of the group came from Turkey for the handover.

The hostages were captured by PKK militants between 2011 and 2012 from a number of different locations in Turkey.

The release of the hostages came after the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, called on the PKK to “treat their prisoners well” and suggested an eventual release.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) spokesperson Haluk Koç has expressed his satisfaction with the release of the eight hostages.

“We are pleased that the abducted public servants were released after being kept by the PKK for years under tough conditions. We are very happy for their families,” Koç said yesterday at a press conference.

EU welcomes release of hostages

The European Union has welcomed the release of the eight public servants in a statement. The EU gives full support to the process that aims to resolve the Kurdish issue, the Spokeperson for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle has said.