Kurdish leader calls for ceasefire with Turkey

March 21, 2013

Jailed Kurd rebel leader declares ceasefire with Turkey, Obama gets cool welcome in the West Bank, and euro zone leaders bemoan the Cyprus mess. Today is Thursday, March 21, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Demonstrators hold Kurdish flags and portraits of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish new year,  in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A step toward ending the decades-long conflict between Turkey and the Kurds. Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan told his rebels to cease fire and withdraw from Turkish land, marking a solid step toward ending a decades-long conflict between Turkey and its Kurdish minority that has claimed nearly 40,000 lives:

“There is a strategic shift happening,” said Ertugrul Kurkcu, a parliamentarian from the pro-Kurdish BDP party [Peace & Democracy Party]. “The Kurdish liberation movement is moving from an armed campaign to a cultural one. And [Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers Party] accepts this.”

Previous attempts at peace agreements have been little more than false starts, and suspicion runs deep among Turkish nationalists that the Kurds may restart a campaign for independence. Some fear a ceasefire won’t ensure Kurdish rights. Others find negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), listed by the EU, U.S. and Turkey as a terrorist group, unpalatable.

Not such a rosy welcome for Obama in the West Bank.  After spending Wednesday in Israel, President Obama flew to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Thursday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama received a cool welcome from a group of Palestinians who chanted anti-American slogans and waved Obama’s helicopter away as it was landing:

Obama flew by helicopter to the Palestinian government headquarters in Ramallah, where disillusioned Palestinians held out little hope that their moment in the U.S. presidential spotlight would help revive a long-dormant peace process. Some 150 Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Ramallah to protest against Obama’s visit. They were held back by mass ranks of police who prevented them from nearing President Mahmoud Abbas’s compound, where the aircraft landed.

This morning, unknown assailants fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip into an Israeli border town Obama mentioned in a speech on Wednesday. Yesterday, Obama reiterated the United States’ support for Israel and even bantered with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran’s nuclear program, a topic that has strained an already tense relationship between the leaders. While Obama said that Israeli settlements are not a productive path toward peace, he did not demand a construction freeze as he did in 2009.

Caution: collapse zone. Finance officials participating in a conference call on Wednesday said the euro zone was “in a mess” over Cyprus, and discussed capital controls on the small island to contain a possible economic collapse:

The German representative raised the need to learn more about capital outflows from Cyprus to Russia and Britain, and emphasized that “we stand ready to find a solution immediately” as long as the parameters of the bailout agreed among euro zone finance ministers on Saturday are respected. The official also referred to the need to resolve the issue of Cyprus’s two biggest banks, both of which are close to collapse, and mentioned the possibility of Cyprus leaving the euro zone.

The finance ministers and treasury officials on the call, members of the Eurogroup Working Group, also raised concerns of a massive outflow of funds once Cypriot banks reopen. Officials from Cyprus refused to participate in the conference call, but continued discussion with Russia on a possible bailout package. Cyprus rejected on Tuesday a levy on Cypriot accounts that would raise 5.8 billion euros as part of a bailout plan proposed by the EU.

Nota bene: Thirty native Indians in Brazil are fighting eviction from the abandoned museum in which they live.


Villagers take on Taliban – Dozens of Afghanistan towns join in an uprising against their Taliban captors. (The New York Times)

“Legacy of pain” – Australian prime minister Julia Gillard apologized for Australia’s forced adoption policy, in place from the 1950s to the 1970s, which made thousands of unwed mothers give up their children. (BBC)

Movie diplomacy – Chinese backers are taking a hands-on role in the Hollywood blockbusters they bankroll, which may not be such a bad thing for the movie biz. (The Atlantic)

Xi dreamed a dream – According to Reuters columnist Ian Bremmer, Chinese exceptionalism might look like American exceptionalism, but the two are far from the same. (Reuters)

Hans Duo – New marriage laws in Scotland might allow Star Wars fans to be married by the Church of Jediism. (Time)

From the File:

  • Iran’s supreme leader says Iran will destroy Israeli cities if attacked
  • Italy parties split as president seeks way out of stalemate
  • Tougher sex crime law in India after gang rape protests
  • Nigeria finds 29 survivors from trafficked immigrant boat
  • South Sudan presses ahead with alternative pipelines study
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