Kurdish militants who have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey for decades have announced they will withdraw from the country in May.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) chief, Murat Karayilan, told a news conference the pullout to Iraq would begin on May 8. The date had previously been reported as May 5 on a Kurdish website.
“The withdrawal is planned to be done gradually in groups and targeted to be completed in the shortest possible time,” he said. “Our withdrawing forces will come and be based in southern (Iraqi) Kurdistan.”
A peace process was launched 6 months ago in an attempt to end the conflict that has taken around 40,000 lives. Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan took a huge political risk with the negotiations which faced strong nationalist opposition.
The PKK group initially took up arms with the aim of creating an independent Kurdistan state. Currently, they seek greater Kurdish rights and limited autonomy.
NATO member Turkey has struggled with the conflict that has caused human, social and economic damage to the country. A peaceful solution could also help Turkey’s deteriorating efforts to join the EU.