PKK rebels back jailed chief Ocalan's peace talks: Commander

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Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan poses in front of Turkish flags after he arrived at the prison island of Imrali, in the Marmara Sea in this February 18, 1999 file photo.
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ANKARA: Kurdish rebel fighters plan to back jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan's peace efforts with the Turkish state and have written to him of their misgivings, a top commander said on Friday.

Rebel commander Murat Karayilan sought to play down the effects of a transcript leaked to the media last month in which Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) chief Ocalan suggested PKK military commanders were less than enthusiastic about his peace talks with Turkish officials.

"In all the meetings we have convened, we decided very clearly that the strategic perspective put forward by our leader is correct and that we will adhere to this," Karayilan said in a statement published on Firat news agency, which has PKK ties.

"However, there are several concerns and problems that need to be overcome," he said, without elaborating.

Ocalan is expected to call a ceasefire in time for the Kurdish new year on March 21 from his imprisonment on an island near Istanbul, where he is having talks to end a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has shown a new sense of urgency in the latest peace efforts ahead of presidential elections next year. His path to the presidency would be smoothed by Kurdish support or damaged by the fear of Kurdish assertiveness in neighbouring northern Iraq and war-torn Syria.

PKK field commanders have also demonstrated their intentions this week by releasing eight Turkish hostages from their bases in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Karayilan, who is based in northern Iraq near the Turkish border, said the militants had provided several "views and suggestions" in a letter to be delivered to Ocalan.

Turkey's pro-Kurdish parliamentary Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is expected to send a delegation to visit Ocalan for a third round of talks in the coming days, said it had received the letter from the PKK command.

The BDP delegation is also expected to deliver a ceasefire call from the rebel leader to his fighters in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.

The PKK has called several ceasefires since Ocalan's capture but violence rose sharply between June 2011 and late last year.

The state kept previous efforts to negotiate with Ocalan secret but this time has openly acknowledged the talks, considered the best chance in years at ending a war that has held back Turkey's political and economic development.

The Daily Star - Lebanon