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ANKARA: Turkey’s intelligence services are in talks with jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan for disarming his PKK group in a bid to bring an end to the nearly three-decade old insurgency, officials said yesterday.
“The intelligence services are in talks with him,” Yalcin Akdogan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top political adviser said in televised remarks.
“The goal is the disarmament of the PKK,” he said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. “The government supports any dialogue to this end that could result in a halt to violence,” Akdogan said.
Ocalan remains “the main actor” in efforts to resolve the Kurdish conflict, Akdogan said, while casting doubt on his ability to influence some 2,000 militants fighting from rear bases in neighbouring Iraq.
The Hurriyet newspaper reported Monday that officials from the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) held a four-hour meeting with Ocalan on December 23 to urge PKK militants, who have been fighting since 1984, to lay down their arms. It said Ocalan, who is being held in solitary confinement on a remote island prison off Istanbul, demanded direct contact with the PKK and improved detention conditions.
Ankara initiated clandestine peace talks with prominent rebel figures in 2009 but they failed.
The deadlock further increased the bloodshed in Turkey, where some 45,000 people, most of them Kurds, have been killed in the conflict. Ocalan was charged with treason and sentenced to hang in 1999, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2002 after Ankara abolished the death penalty.
The fresh talks with Ocalan aim at laying down a timetable under which a declaration on ending the insurgency will be issued in the first months of 2013 and the PKK will start disarming, Hurriyet reported.
Ocalan is allowed to have visits from his family, which relays his messages to the public, but his lawyers have been denied visits for almost two years, as Ankara accuses them of carrying messages to Kurdish rebel top brass.
After a decade behind bars, Ocalan is still a respected figure for a majority of Turkey’s Kurds, although his influence in the hawkish wings of the PKK is believed to have diminished.
The rebels initially sought to secede the southeast of the country but have since shifted to demanding regional autonomy.
The army has continued to fight the rebels despite the talks.
Akdogan said 10 rebels were killed Monday in Lice, a town in southeastern Diyarbakir province.