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What's behind Ankara's decision to lift visit ban on jailed PKK leader?

The Turkish government's decision to allow family visits for Abdullah Ocalan may be linked to Ankara's ongoing operation in northwest Syria.
Kurdish protesters carry flags and a banner with a portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan during a demonstration against Turkey's military action in northeastern Syria in Zurich, Switzerland October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann - RC148C889EE0

The Turkish government granted jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, 71, access to his family after a seven-month pause. Coming amid Turkey’s escalating war against Syrian regime forces in the northwestern province of Idlib, the move has sparked a flurry of speculation on the government’s motives.

On the face of things, the Turkish government granted permission for Ocalan's brother, Mehmet, to visit him on Imrali, the island prison where the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been held since 1999, to allay concerns over his safety. Worries about Ocalan's well-being grew after authorities announced that a Feb. 27 forest fire on the island was now under control. 

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