DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed Kurdish rebel leader, called Thursday for a cease-fire and the removal of all his fighters from Turkish soil, in a landmark moment for a newly energized effort to end three decades of armed conflict with the Turkish government.
‘‘We have reached the point where weapons should go silent and ideas should speak,’’ Ocalan wrote in a letter read out to jubilant crowds gathered in the Kurdish heartland here in southern Turkey.
The conflict between Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Turkish government has claimed nearly 45,000 lives and has deeply scarred society since its start in 1984. While there have been periods of cease-fire, never before has a broad peace process had as much support at the highest levels of both the Turkish and Kurdish leadership.
For the Turkish government, the effort to seek peace has been seen as a critical step in its ambition to be a regional power. For the Kurds, it carries the hope of expanded rights under a new constitution and the freedom to express a separate identity within the country.