The jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, said in his Newroz message on Saturday that the, “PKK must convene a congress to end the 40-year armed conflict against Turkey.”
The message of the PKK-leader, jailed in Turkey since 1999, was read in front of hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey.
It was read by pro-Kurdish party Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, deputy chairperson Pervin Buldan in the Kurdish language and by HDP Istanbul lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder in Turkish.
“We face the duty of initiating a new process based on the ten-point historical declaration made officially public in the Dolmabahce Palace,” Ocalan said in the message.
On Feb. 28, Turkish Deputy PM Yalcin Akdogan and Interior Minister Efkan Ala met with HDP leaders, including the party’s deputy chairs, Pervin Buldan and Idris Baluken, and Istanbul lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder at the Prime Ministry’s office in Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul.
Onder said at the time that his party’s support for the solution process was based on 10 “basic principles” that would constitute the backbone of a true democracy.
The Turkish government launched an initiative in early 2013 publicly known as the "solution process" to end the decades-old conflict with the outlawed PKK, a dispute which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people over around 40 years.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey as well as by the U.S. and the European Union.
Ocalan, 66, is known as one of the founders of the outlawed PKK in the late 1970s and was sentenced to life imprisonment for creating armed gangs. In his message, he said that after a four-decade conflict, “history and our people are demanding from us a democratic solution and peace suitable with the spirit of the period.”
Ocalan, who is imprisoned on Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara, said that “together with this congress a new era is starting.”
He said that within this new period, people living free and equal in the Turkish Republic are entering a process of “living in peace and brotherhood.”
Previously, during the 2013 Newroz celebrations, Ocalan also made a call to withdraw all armed PKK elements from Turkish soil as of May and June 2013 and put an end to the armed conflict.
Newroz is the March 21 festival that marks the beginning of spring and is celebrated mainly in Iran, Afghanistan, India, Turkic republics such as Azerbaijan, Caucasus countries, Albania and Macedonia. Turkey's Kurdish population in particular see it as an important traditional and cultural event.