Jailed Ocalan tells rebel Kurds to declare ceasefire with Turkey

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The Independent Online

The jailed Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan, wants his guerrilla fighters to declare a ceasefire, his lawyer said, amid international criticism of a wave of rebel attacks, some on civilians and foreign tourists.

The leader is asking his Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, to announce a new, unilateral ceasefire and seek a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish problem, his lawyer, Ibrahim Bilmez, said, after a meeting with Ocalan.

More than a dozen soldiers and policemen have been killed in recent weeks and militants believed to be linked to the rebels have bombed tourist resorts, killing three and injuring more than a dozen tourists.

The United States had pledged support in cracking down on the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by the US and the European Union.

A statement by Ocalan faxed to the media read: "I am fulfilling my responsibilities and I am calling on the PKK [to declare] a ceasefire.

"Come, let's stop forever the armed fight from being a method of solution in Turkey and the Middle East. Let's bury the arms."

The rebels were expected to heed Ocalan's call, which followed a similar call this month from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party. But Turkey is likely to press ahead with its military campaign. It has ignored all previous ceasefires by the group, saying it does not negotiate with terrorists. Military commanders have vowed to fight until all rebels are killed or surrender.

In the statement, Ocalan warned: "The PKK will absolutely not use weapons unless they are attacked."

Ocalan said this would be his last call for a unilateral truce. "If no result can be achieved, then I would not be able to find the power in myself to make a new call, nor would the PKK listen to me." He was captured in 1999 in Kenya and sentenced to death for treason, but the sentence was commuted after Turkey abolished the death penalty. He is in solitary confinement on a prison islandin the Marmara Sea.

The conflict has claimed the lives of 37,000 people since 1984.