A new initiative was launched at a press conference on Monday with a call for the reopening of dialogue between the Turkish government and the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The call, made by Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, has the support of a number of world leaders.

The International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative  was launched with statements from South African Judge Essa Moosa and Ngodup Dorjee, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the joint call was signed by such prominent dignitaries as former President of the USA Jimmy Carter and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams. The joint appeal can be read in full below.

The IPRI will work towards finding a lasting and durable peace in Turkey through a process of dialogue and negotiations between the Turkish government and Abdullah Ocalan representing the Kurdish people. Its main objective is to facilitate a lasting peaceful solution to the Kurdish question by providing an international forum to highlight key issues in the Kurdish question and inform policy makers and the public of development on this issue.

The Initiative comes at a time of renewed and strengthened calls for peace talks from the Kurdish community across Turkey and the diaspora. Hundreds of political prisoners recently engaged in hunger strikes which lasted over 65 days, demanding an end to Abdullah Ocalan’s isolation in order for peace negotiations to resume. The Free Ocalan Campaign is collecting signatures from supporters across the world to demand the same, while in Brussels, the 9th international conference of the EU Turkey Civic Commission taking place this week, will also address the key issue of restarting talks.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who was unable to attend the launch in person, said in a video  message: “My message to the leaders of the Turks and the Kurds is a very simple one: Peace is better than war. Peace is better for your brothers and sisters, for yourselves and your children, for your country and for your region, and for the world we share.

“I feel deeply troubled by the violence that is once again spiralling out of control in Turkey between the Turks and the Kurds. The fact that thousands are languishing in prison for political offences – some awaiting trial and others convicted and serving lengthy prison sentences – is also deeply troubling.

“I have learnt with considerable gratitude that the more than 700 political detainees and prisoners in Turkey have gracefully responded to the call of Abdullah Öcalan from prison that they should call off the hunger strike. They have been on hunger strike for more than 60 days. This, in my view, sets the tune for peaceful negotiations. I appeal to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to grab the olive branch of peace which is held out by Abdullah Öcalan.

“It is time to talk and to listen.

“My appeal to Turks and Kurds is for an urgent cease-fire to take root as a necessary first step to formal negotiations, reconciliation and lasting peace.”

We have made the statements by Judge Essa Moosa (doc), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (doc) and Ngodu Dorjee, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lamap Dalai Lama (pdf), available for download.



Talks which started at the beginning of 2009 between the Turkish Government and the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan have broken down for reasons insignificant to the conflict itself. In our opinion a dialogue needs to be reopened.

For any talks to succeed it has to be recognized that the Kurdish people are a permanent feature of the land they share with their fellow citizens. The fundamental realities cannot be denied forever, and genuine dialogue towards a lasting peace seems the only proper way forward.

Dialogue between the parties is the only way to secure a peaceful resolution to the conflict and peace is a precondition for establishing a democratic Turkey. Successful dialogue will make all other methods unnecessary.

Peace talks will bring hope to the Kurdish and Turkish people who have been living under the shadow of a protracted conflict with no apparent end in sight.

It is never too late to act for a better future. Now is the time to seize the moment to break the deadlock and lay the basis for a lasting peace.

It is for this reason that we call on the parties to take the necessary steps to restart the talks in good faith with the aim of giving democracy and peace a new chance for the sake of all the people of Turkey.

God bless you

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu


This call is supported by the following signatories:

  • His Holiness Dalai Lama, Tibet
  • President José Ramos-Horta, Former President of East Timor
  • Mr. Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin President, Ireland
  • President Jimmy Carter, United States of America
  • Mr. Kjell Magne Bondevik, Former Prime Minister of Norway
  • Mr. Ingvar Carlsson, Former Prime Minister, Sweden
  • Mr. Paavo Lipponen, Former Prime Minister, Finland
  • Mr. Anker Jørgensen, Former Prime Minister, Denmark
  • Mr. Kjeld Olesen, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denmark