PKK Leader Says No Peace Until Ocalan’s Release

cccA top official of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) warned Friday his group would not lay down arms before the release of their leader Abdulla Ocalan who has been serving a life sentence since the late 1990s in Imrali Prison on an island in the Marmara Sea.

Cemil Bayek, a PKK founder and co-leader of party’s military wing accused Ankara of undermining the country’s peace process with the Kurds by not freeing Ocalan or allowing him visits.

“Ocalan is the one who worked to push the peace process forward but [Turkey] opposed him,” Bayek said during an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Sharq-al-Awsat published on Saturday.

“The PKK will not lay down arms until after the release of Ocalan,” he warned.

The government in 2012 launched talks with Ocalan who subsequently declared a ceasefire by the PKK, a group which has been locked in a bloody conflict with the Turkish Army since the early 1980s. The PKK began to withdraw to camps based in the Kurdistan region’s northern Qandil mountains in mid-2012.

Bayek also praised the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) for surpassing the 10 percent election threshold and sending lawmakers to the Turkish parliament earlier this month.

“The HDP must now work to put in place a constitution for Turkey which is respectful of all nations,” he said.

Bayek said PKK and HDP shared “common visions” for a future Turkey in which “the rights of every nation are safeguarded” by law and denied circulating reports about tensions between the two groups over future roles.

“PKK, HDP and Ocalan have different functions and roles,” he said, adding that no side “dictates” what the others should do.

“We [in Qandil] decide in the name of PKK. We are the ones who decide to continue the armed struggle or not. Ocalan and the HDP cannot make that decision for us,” he said.