ANKARA, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The call for a ceasefire and withdrawal of militants from Turkey by the jailed leader of outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) was met with both optimism and caution in Turkey.
Whether the PKK will comply with the announcement of the ceasefire by Abdullah Ocalan on Thursday represents a key test for the next phase of the government-sponsored peace talks.
"The fact that Ocalan made the expected announcement must be welcomed," Idris Gursoy, an Ankara-based political analyst said. But the call must be followed by actions on the ground, he said.
"We will see to what extent the PKK organization will abide by the imprisoned leader's call," Gursoy said.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, 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.
The Turkish government has been holding peace negotiations with jailed Ocalan since last October, with the aim of outlining a timetable for the disarmament of PKK militants and their withdrawal from Turkish territory.
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, PKK's political wing, signaled earlier this week that Ocalan would make the ceasefire call on Thursday, the day of spring festival Newroz celebrations.
Newroz celebrations in predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces in Turkey went on smoothly this year, unlike a year ago when the police had to interfere.
"The peace process, if concluded successfully, will bring tremendous and historic opportunities for Turkey," said Bulent Kenes, editor-in chief of Turkish daily Today's Zaman.
But he also appealed for a cautious mind, saying that some domestic and foreign forces may still undermine the process. Yavuz Baydar, columnist at Sabah daily, agrees.
"There may be a broad agreement and a rough roadmap but traps and risks are many," Baydar warned, despite admitting Thursday as a "historic day full of hope and doubts."
"The real process begins from now on," Baydar said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday welcomed Ocalan's message, but was displeased to see the lack of Turkish national flags at the rally in Diyarbakir province where Ocalan's message was read out loud to hundreds of thousands of Kurds.
"The message was overshadowed with the lack of Turkish flags," Erdogan said in the Netherlands where he was paying an visit.
The PKK has called for ceasefire unilaterally seven times in the past but obeyed none. However, this is the first time Ocalan directly calls for a truce and announces publicly that the armed struggle is now over.
"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 written message.
On Sunday, Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said at a televised interview that PKK members would withdraw from Turkey within nine months from March 21.
Mithat Isik, an anti-terro expert, said he believes the PKK will abide by Ocalan's orders and start withdrawing from Turkey in August or September.
"The important thing is that what to do with some five or six thousand militants after the withdrawal. They need to be rehabilitated and resettled," he said.
Isik also called for the disarmament of the group after they leave out from Turkey. "We do not want those weapons to fall into wrong hands," he said.
Emre Uslu, another expert on anti-terrorism, said the PKK is not laying down its arms yet but simply withdrawing from Turkey to assume another role.
"Let's be hopeful and support the process," said Uslu.