October 8, 2015 / 2:36 PM / 4 years ago

Pro-Kurdish party hopeful of PKK ceasefire as Turkish election nears

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition said on Thursday it hoped Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants would announce a halt to hostilities soon to ease security concerns ahead of a Nov. 1 parliamentary election.

Women wave Turkey's national flags during a rally against recent Kurdish militant attacks on Turkish security forces in Istanbul, Turkey, September 20, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The PKK’s three-decade conflict with the state has flared anew since July, when Turkey launched air strikes on militant camps in response to what it said were rising attacks on the security forces, ending a ceasefire declared in March 2013.

Hundreds have since died in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Writing in the Kurdish Ozgur Gundem newspaper this week, senior PKK figure Bese Hozat hinted at a ceasefire as a way of bolstering the political chances of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the upcoming election.

“The freedom movement will take a historic stance again to make a greater contribution to the HDP’s great victory on Nov. 1,” wrote Hozat, co-leader of the PKK umbrella group KCK.

HDP deputy Ertugrul Kurkcu said his party had repeatedly proposed such a move and was optimistic it would now come.

“After Bese Hozat’s statement, the announcement of a unilateral cessation of hostilities is something I expect,” he told Reuters, forecasting it in the coming days.

Such a move would prevent the ruling AK Party from exploiting the security situation to impose restricted military zones, debunk AKP allegations that people vote for the HDP under PKK pressure, and ease security worries, he said.

Ankara has announced a series of curfews and military zones in parts of the southeast, but a bid to relocate polling stations away from conflict areas - which could have made it difficult for some voters in Kurdish areas to cast their ballots - was rejected by Turkey’s election board.

The PKK has declared a series of ceasefires in the past, including ahead of elections, often with a view to engaging in negotiations.

A ceasefire held from 1999, in the wake of Turkey’s capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, until 2004. The most recent ceasefire, declared in 2013, had held until July.

The Turkish military does not announce ceasefires on its side and President Tayyip Erdogan has said the fight will continue until the militants disarm and leave Turkish soil.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

The state launched peace talks with Ocalan, imprisoned on the island of Imrali near Istanbul, in late 2012.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Tom Heneghan

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