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Fate of jailed Kurdish leader questioned as Turkey shuns peace

As a showdown looms in Idlib between Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition rebels, Ankara faces the prospect of further turmoil, while long-stalled Turkish-Kurdish talks seem unlikely to be revived nearly 20 years after Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was jailed.
A man holds a flag with a picture of imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a gathering to celebrate Newroz, which marks the arrival of spring and the new year, in Istanbul, Turkey March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer - RC1FB1A51280

When Syrian Kurdish-led forces declared victory against the Islamic State in Raqqa last October, a group of women fighters unfurled a giant banner amid ululating and cheering. The canary yellow cloth was emblazoned with a portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), whose fate is of growing concern for Kurds worldwide. The move sparked furor in Ankara, casting a pall over celebrations to mark the collapse of the so-called capital of the IS “caliphate.”

“How is the US going to explain this,” growled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Was the United States still going to pretend that its Syrian Kurdish allies, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have nothing to do with the PKK? The PKK, the rebel outfit that oversaw the establishment of the YPG, has killed thousands of Turkish soldiers, targeted hundreds of civilians and has been designated a terrorist organization by the US Department of State.

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