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Kurdish PKK militants who have fought for autonomy in Turkey for decades will begin withdrawing within two weeks. Kurdistan Workers Party commander Murat Karayilan said the pullout would begin on May 8. He held a news conference in Qandil in northern Iraq. The PKK said the forces would withdraw to Iraq.
The announcement bolsters a peace process launched some six months ago, in which jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been in talks with Turkish intelligence agents in his island prison near Istanbul to end a conflict that has cost some 40,000 lives.
Human Rights Watch has also urged that justice must be done swiftly in cases of state-perpetrated violence in the conflict.
Senior researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said: “All of these killings and disappearances happened in the early 1990s, and there is in Turkish law a time limitation on prosecution, so that if you don’t prosecute murder within 20 years, the case drops. And right now, in 2013, we are on the very edge of the time limitation expiring.”
In past reports, Human Rights Watch noted that both sides were responsible for violations. In addition to Turkish troops killed, unarmed civilians – including Kurds – also died at the hands of the PKK, sometimes in attacks in other countries as well.
The fighting has held back development in the mainly Kurdish region, with huge human, social and economic damage, and required heavy military spending by Turkey.