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Wednesday, June 2, 1999 Published at 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK

World: Europe

PKK backs Ocalan peace call

Heavy security surrounds the trial of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan

The Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, has issued a statement saying it supports a call made by its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, for an end to its long-running war with Turkey.

Mr Ocalan is on trial on charges of treason and faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

The Ocalan File
"We say 15 years of war are more than enough," the PKK rebels said in a statement carried by the Kurdish DEM news agency.

The statement called for "a democratic solution to be realised through peace and brotherhood."

[ image: The PKK is blamed for the deaths of thousands of Turkish soldiers]
The PKK is blamed for the deaths of thousands of Turkish soldiers
But it warned the fighting would continue if the offer was not accepted.

The statement was issued by the PKK's leadership council, formed as an interim body after Mr Ocalan's capture in February.

Ocalan's plea

At the start of his trial on Monday he said he wanted to cooperate with the Turkish authorities and could bring an end to the armed conflict if he was allowed to live.

[ image: Mr Ocalan's testimony is given from behind a bomb- and bullet-proof cage]
Mr Ocalan's testimony is given from behind a bomb- and bullet-proof cage
"You can hang me if you like but let me solve the Kurdish problem first. You cannot do it without me," he told the court.

His statement was greeted with widespread scepticism in the Turkish press and amongst the relatives of Turkish soldiers killed in the conflict who are attending the trial.

The PKK has been blamed for more than 30,000 deaths since it began its campaign against Turkish rule in 1984.

Mr Ocalan was captured by Turkish special forces in Kenya on 15 February, after trying for months to find a country willing to grant him asylum.

His trial is being held in a specially built courtroom on a high security prison island in the Sea of Marmara.

Surrender call

[ image: Families of Turkish solidiers killed in the conflict have been attending the trial]
Families of Turkish solidiers killed in the conflict have been attending the trial
Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said on Wednesday, the PKK should surrender and "take shelter with Turkish justice".

In an interview with the Turkish newspaper, Sabah, Mr Demirel said: ""What you are doing is in vain."

"If your leader has come to this state, what can you do? Nobody has been able to harm the Turkish state," he said.

On Tuesday Mr Ocalan told the court that the PKK had received support from a number of countries in the past including Syria, Iran and Turkey's arch rival, Greece.

He also denied responsibility for the deaths of 33 unarmed Turkish soldiers in 1993 in an attack that ended a PKK ceasefire, saying the killings were carried out by renegade soldiers acting without his authority.

His trial continues.

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