PKK starts moving forces out of Turkey

Updated 12 May 2013
0

PKK starts moving forces out of Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey: Kurdish rebels have started their gradual retreat from Turkey to bases in northern Iraq, a Kurdish party leader said Wednesday, kicking off a key stage in the peace process with the Turkish government aimed at ending one of the world’s bloodiest insurgencies.
The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, declared a cease-fire in March and agreed to withdraw guerrilla fighters from the Turkish territory, heeding a call from its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who is engaged in talks with Turkey to end a nearly 30-year battle that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
The group, which has sought greater autonomy and more rights for Turkey’s Kurds, has, however, rejected a Turkish government demand that they lay down arms before leaving the Turkish territory. The PKK’s commander, Murat Karayilan, has said that the group won’t disarm until Turkey enacts democratic reforms increasing the rights of Kurds and introduces an amnesty for all imprisoned rebels, including Ocalan.
Gultan Kisinak, a joint leader of a major pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey, said a first group of rebel fighters started their advance toward the border with Iraq on Wednesday.
“According to the information we have received, the movement has started,” Kisanak told The Associated Press. She gave no information on the number of PKK fighters who had started the retreat.
“This is a historic process and a historic day,” said Pervin Buldan, a legislator from Kisanak’s party who is involved in the peace negotiations. “It is a day when ... a conflict-ridden process is ending and a new process is beginning.”
The Turkish government did not confirm the pull out and a PKK spokesman in northern Iraq could not be reached for comment.
Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, said, however: “We are following the issue. It’s the results that are important for us. We feel that we are close to getting results.”
The PKK, considered a terror organization by Turkey and its Western allies, is believed to have between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters inside Turkey, in addition to several thousand more based in northern Iraq. The full withdrawal of forces is expected to take several months. The group has long used the northern Iraqi territory as a springboard for attacks in Turkey.
The rebels on Tuesday complained about “provocative” acts by Turkey — including the continued construction of military border posts, reconnaissance flights by unmanned drones and the mobilization of troops in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region — but said they would nevertheless press ahead with the withdrawal.
The PKK planned to first pull out rebels fighters based furthest away from the border, allowing those nearer the border to keep watch and ensure their secure passage, Kisanak said. Those nearest to the border will leave last, she said. Both the PKK and the government have said the rebels will use several routes they use to slip into Turkey and that the retreat will be conducted quietly.
Ozturk Turkdogan, the head of Turkey’s independent Human Rights Association, who has been charged with overseeing the withdrawal, said the rebels would leave by foot. Members of his group will monitor areas near the border to make sure there is no Turkish military activity as the PKK withdraws.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said that the PKK fighters would not come to any harm during the retreat.
“They take the prime minister’s words as a political guarantee,” Kisanak said. “But still, they want to take their own precautions as they withdraw.”
The PKK says hundreds of the group’s fighters were attacked as they withdrew from Turkey in 1999, after Ocalan was captured and ordered his fighters to withdraw for peace with Turkey.


Iraq’s Al-Fattah leaders deep in coalition talks with Muqtada Al-Sadr

Updated 8 min 53 sec ago
0

Iraq’s Al-Fattah leaders deep in coalition talks with Muqtada Al-Sadr

  • Negotiations between the leading Iraqi political forces to form the biggest parliamentary bloc started immediately after the official results were announced late on Friday.
  • The backing of Al-Fattah leaders is essential to nominate the next prime minister and form a strong and stable government.

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Al-Fattah, the Iranian-backed parliamentary bloc that won the second-highest vote in the parliamentary elections, are in deep negotiations with the powerful Shiite leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr to form a coalition.

While it is too early to talk about ministerial posts, Al-Fattah has no veto over Haider Al-Abadi, the current prime minister, from taking a second term, the alliance’s senior leaders told Arab News on Tuesday.

Negotiations between the leading Iraqi political forces to form the biggest parliamentary bloc started immediately after the official results were announced late on Friday. The biggest coalition has the exclusive right to nominate the prime minister and form a government.

The backing of Al-Fattah leaders is essential to nominate the next prime minister and form a strong and stable government.

Ahmed Assadi, the spokesman of Fattah and one of its leaders, said negotiations were continuing with Sairoon, the alliance which came first in the election with 54 seats and is led by Al-Sadr.

“There is no way to form a government without either of them,” Al-Assidi said.

“Both (Fattah and Sairoon) represent the biggest alliances among the winning forces and enjoy great support in the street and the region, so there is no way to ignore one of them.”

The Fattah alliance, which is openly funded and supported by Iran, won 47 seats, which includes 22 seats won by Badr Organization, one of the most prominent Shiite armed groups and 17 seats won by Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, the second most powerful Shiite paramilitary group.
The relationship between Al-Sadr and Fattah leaders is tense as the cleric has accused Fattah factions of carrying out an Iranian agenda in Iraq.

Al-Sadr has said on several occasions in the last two weeks that he is ready to negotiate with all political forces except Fattah and the State of Law — led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.

But Al-Sadr’s tone has changed in recent days and he has come back to say that the coalition he is working on, is open to everyone.

Assadi and two other Al-Fattah leaders said talks have focussed on forming the biggest parliamentary bloc so far not the nomination of the prime minister.

“Our vision is to form a big parliamentary bloc first within the Shiite winning blocs, and then go to the Kurdish and Sunni (winning) blocs,” Assadi said.

Along with Sairoon and Al-Fattah, the talks involving prime minster Al-Abadi’s Al-Nassir alliance, Hikma, led by the prominent cleric Ammar Al-Hakim, Al-Wattiniya, led by Vice President Ayad Allawi, and Maliki’s State of Law.

The only thing that has been agreed upon so far is the formation of a national majority government, not a political power sharing administration. Also, the negotiators have agreed to postpone talking about positions, including the post of prime minister, leaders said.

“It is still too early to announce any coalition,” a senior leader of Fattah involved in the talks and talked told Arab News. “Talks are still focusing on the government program and the details are too many.

“Al-Sadr, Nassir and Hikma are insisting to nominate Al-Abadi but we clearly said that we have no veto against him, but that there would be no discussions over the names until we agree on all the other details.”