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Prime Minister hopes for peace with Kurdish rebels

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 19, 2013 at 9:10 am •  Published: March 19, 2013

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's prime minister said he hopes this week's spring festival, which is celebrated by Kurds, will herald the start of a peaceful resolution of the country's nearly 30-year-old conflict with Kurdish rebels.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan spoke Tuesday ahead of Thursday's spring Newroz festivities, when jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan said he would make a "historic call" toward peace. Kurdish officials have said Ocalan is expected to reveal his road map for peace, including a possible cease-fire declaration and a timetable for his fighters' retreat from Turkey.

Turkish officials have been holding talks with Ocalan on his prison island off Istanbul with the aim of persuading his autonomy-seeking group to disarm. The conflict with Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

"May this Newroz bring hope, may Newroz, so to say, be the insemination of the process for a solution," Erdogan told lawmakers in parliament.

Turkey has admitted to holding failed, secret peace talks with the PKK before. The latest initiative is being carried out more publicly and follows a surge in violence last summer that killed hundreds of people.

The government has said the rebel group would lay down arms and withdraw several thousands of fighters from Turkey's territory as part of the peace efforts, but has not revealed what steps Turkey will take.

Erdogan ruled out any "bargaining, concessions, back-stepping" or steps that would "hurt" the families of the violence's victims.

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