ANKARA, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The imprisoned leader of outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan urged his group members to lay down arms and withdraw from Turkey on Thursday, the day of spring festival Newroz celebrations.
"Guns should fall silent and politics should come to the foreground. The stage has been reached where our armed forces should withdraw beyond the borders... It is not the end, it is the start of a new era," Ocalan said in a statement read by Kurdish politicians at Nevruz celebrations attended by a quarter million people in Diyarbakir province in southeastern Turkey.
On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he hoped the upcoming Newroz festival would be a chance for reviving the stalled peace process on Kurdish issue and bringing an end to the three-decade insurgency.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and part of the international community, took up arms in 1984 in an attempt to create an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey. Since then, some 40,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving the group.