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Jailed Kurdish leader calls for peaceful negotiations with Turkey

JAILED Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has reiterated his call for a return to peaceful negotiations to resolve Turkey’s so-called Kurdish question, his brother said after a family visit to the Imrali island prison. 

Mehmet Ocalan met with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader for one hour after Turkish authorities agreed to the request for a visit to celebrate the Bayram (Eid) festival, a traditional day spent with families.

He spoke to the Mesopotamia news agency about their discussions, which included Mr Ocalan’s views on the struggle of Kurds in northern Syria, the recently ended hunger strikes in Turkish prisons and the resumption of peace talks with the government.

Mr Ocalan explained that the unity of Syria is essential in securing the freedom of the Kurdish people, who, while defeating Isis in Raqqa and other regions in the north of the country, have built a semi-autonomous enclave known as Rojava.

“The people of northern Syria must struggle more for their freedoms,” Mr Ocalan said, adding: “But they must do it together with all the people of Syria.”

Mr Ocalan insisted that both the Turkish state and the PKK should develop “new methods” in the quest for a settlement to the so-called Kurdish question, saying: “There can be no solution found over deaths. Methods must be developed … that will lead to a dignified peace.”

PKK forces announced a ceasefire as part of the 2013 Newroz Declaration which marked the Kurdish new year.

Negotiations took place between representatives of the Turkish state and Mr Ocalan, but they were arbitrarily abandoned by the government in 2015.

As many as 7,000 people joined hunger strikes in protest at the Turkish authorites continuing to keep Mr Ocalan in isolation, but they were called off last month after a statement by the Kurdish leader.

“The prisoners are already behind walls. They can’t engage with politics,” Mr Ocalan said.

“They already live under harsh circumstances. The ones on the outside have many more opportunities.

“The ones on the outside should organise and develop their democratic protests. This would be a better method.”

It is unclear whether the family and lawyers’ visits to Mr Ocalan will continue.

It was the second time this year that Mehmet Ocalan had seen his brother, after a 15-minute visit was allowed in January.

Abdullah Ocalan said: “I can’t say the channels of communication have opened fully, but they haven’t closed either. We must wait.

”If these channels open fully, that will be good for all. If they close, that will bring destruction for all.”

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