PKK begins withdrawing from Turkey as part of settlement process
An agreed pullout of militants of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) from predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey has reportedly started. Selahattin Demirtas, leader of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), told AFP on Wednesday that the militants "started moving." He earlier said the full withdrawal of forces could take three to four months. The PKK declared a cease-fire in March and promised to gradually pull militants out of Turkey as part of settlement talks aimed at ending a nearly three-decade-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. The group has been fighting Turkey for autonomy for Kurds in the Southeast. The declaration fell short of the expectations of Turkey, which had insisted that the terrorists retreat unarmed, laying down their weapons before they leave Turkish territory. The terrorists have also set conditions for peace with Turkey that include democratic reforms to increase the rights of Kurds and an amnesty for all imprisoned rebels, including jailed rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. A PKK statement, carried by the pro-PKK Firat News agency on Tuesday confirmed that "a first group" of fighters will leave Turkey on Wednesday and be settled in bases in northern Iraq within a week. The group said it was pressing ahead with its decision to withdraw despite what it called "provocative" acts by Turkey, including the construction of military border posts, reconnaissance flights by unmanned drones and the mobilization of troops in Turkey's Southeast. The statement did not say how many militants would start withdrawing on Wednesday or when the pullout will be completed. The PKK, which frequently launched attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq, is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies. The Turkish government estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 of the terrorists operate from inside Turkey.