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Kurdish rebel leader expected to declare cease-fire as part of peace efforts with Turkey

A jailed Kurdish rebel leader is expected to issue a long-awaited cease-fire declaration that would be a major step toward ending a 30-year conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives in Turkey.

Tens of thousands of people gathered Thursday for a Kurdish spring festival where Kurdish legislators are to read a message from Abdullah Ocalan. He is expected to declare a truce, as well as the gradual withdrawal of fighters from Turkish territory — offering hope of ending one of the world's bloodiest insurgencies.

Turkey has been in talks with Ocalan. His group, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies, is fighting for self-rule in southeast Turkey.

In a symbolic gesture, the rebels recently heeded a call by Ocalan and released eight captive Turkish soldiers and officials.