ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan said the peace process to end three decades of conflict had entered a second stage with his fighters’ withdrawal from Turkey and he had presented the Turkish government with new proposals.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas began pulling out of Turkish territory to bases in northern Iraq last month in the first stage of a deal between Ocalan and the state to end an insurgency in which 40,000 people have been killed.
During the second stage, Ocalan expects the government to enact reforms to boost the rights of the Kurdish minority, which makes up some 20 percent of Turkey’s 76 million population.
Ocalan, held on an island jail south of Istanbul, met on Monday with a delegation from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). In a statement issued by the BDP on Tuesday, he said he was determined to push ahead with the process.
“At the moment we have moved into the second stage. I have presented to the state in writing our proposals on how the second stage will work,” Ocalan said.
“I hope the state assesses our proposals on the second stage correctly and reaches the right conclusions,” he said. “Despite obstructions by some powers I am determined to advance this process and I believe that we will be successful.”
Last week the BDP called on the government to advance the process before parliament goes into recess in July after little evidence of progress in June, when public and government attention was focused on anti-government protests.
The BDP wants Ankara to take steps to remove obstacles to freedom of expression, change the penal code and reform the political parties and election law.
PKK commander Murat Karayilan, based in the mountains of northern Iraq, last week accused the state of sabotaging the process, saying it was “preparing for war”.
The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, took up arms against the state in 1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish state, but subsequently moderated its goal to autonomy.
Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Angus MacSwan