Turkish government expects PKK to ‘take steps’ by March 21

Turkish government expects PKK to ‘take steps’ by March 21

Turkish government expects PKK to ‘take steps’ by March 21

AA Photo

The Turkish government has reiterated its insistence that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) declare the laying down of arms by March 21, when the Nevruz holiday is marked.

“The call has already been made. Now we wait for the requirements [of this call],” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said late on March 2, after being questioned about expectations that the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, would deliver a call for the PKK to abandon arms on Nevruz. Speaking in an interview with broadcasters ATV and A Haber, the prime minister was apparently referring to Öcalan’s Feb. 28 call for his followers to hold a disarmament congress.

Öcalan, who still exerts influence over the PKK from his prison cell, on Feb. 28 called on followers to meet in the spring and agree to lay down their arms.

When asked if the laying down of arms could take place before Nevruz, Davutoğlu said “[these are] things that would be known and done by [the related] parties. What matters is that the call for laying down arms, also through an agreement that we have accepted, has been made. This is a strong and positive message.”

March 21 is Nevruz, a regional spring festival that is of crucial importance for Kurdish people.

Davutoğlu also repeatedly insisted that Öcalan’s latest call does not outline any preconditions and is an explicit declaration of intent for the PKK’s disarmament.

“This is call for the laying down of arms. It is a declaration of intention, a declaration of will. Presenting it as if there is a precondition of laying down arms amounts to distorting the substance and content of the statement and the point on which it is focused,” he said, in an apparent bid to deny that the call to hold a disarmament congress indicating reciprocity on the part of the government.

All articles of the declaration are issues that have been discussed during debates for a new constitution, Davutoğlu added.

“We’ll do what is necessary when we see serious steps [for disarmament],” he said, while also adding that the government would not make any “concessions on public order if they begin stalling and taking arms back onto the agenda, after the call to lay down arms, as was the case in 2013.”

Davutoğlu, meanwhile, also refuted media reports that PKK members coming down from the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq, or reporters, would be meeting Öcalan in İmralı Island Prison, where he is serving a life sentence.

He similarly dismissed claims that the controversial government-led security package was suspended due to the will of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

“The package will be evaluated one way or another due to internal regulations. We’ll do everything to pass the package in this legislation term,” he said.

In a joint press conference with Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan on Feb. 28, HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder relayed a message from Öcalan calling on the Kurdish rebels to hold a congress on disarmament in the spring.

The statement also listed 10 measures that the government must agree upon to ensure peace, including drafting a new constitution.