ANKARA, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The imprisoned leader of outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan on Thursday urged his group to lay down arms and withdraw from Turkey.
"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," Ocalan said in a statement, which was read out by pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party deputies Pervin Buldan and Sirri Sureyya Onder in both Kurdish and Turkish.
About 250,000 people attended the Newroz celebrations at a main square of Diyarbakir province in southeastern Turkey to hear Kurdish deputies reading out Ocalan's letter.
Newroz marks the New Year holiday in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of India and the Kurdish areas.
On Sunday, Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said at a televised interview that PKK members would withdraw from Turkey within nine months following March 21.
On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he hoped the upcoming Newroz festival would be a chance to revive the stalled peace process on Kurdish issue and end the three-decade insurgency.
"We hope this March 21 will be celebrated with joy. Let this year's Newroz provide hope, and spread the seeds for resolution," said Erdogan.
Turkish authorities have been holding peace negotiations with Ocalan since last October in the hope of ending 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.