Kurdish activists executed in Paris
The Kurdish question has taken on a particular urgency with the rise of Kurdish groups in neighbouring northern Iraq, where they control an autonomous zone, and in Syria. Turkey fears that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could encourage Kurds to feed militancy in Turkey.
Many Turks fear such autonomy sought by the PKK could stoke demands for an independent Kurdish homeland in Turkey and beyond Turkish frontiers, and undermine Turkey itself.
The Firat news agency, which is close to the group, said another of the victims was the Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress. It said the murder weapon was believed to have been fitted with a silencer.
"A couple of colleagues saw blood stains at the door. When they broke the door open and entered they saw the three women had been executed," French Kurdish Associations Federation Chairman Mehmet Ulker was reported as saying by Firat.
Female militants have played a significant role in the PKK's insurgency, partly reflecting a principle of equality within the group's Marxist ideology. In some cases, desire to avenge the killing of other family members was the motivation for joining, for others it was a way out of family repression, analysts say.
The government and PKK have agreed a framework for a peace plan, according to Turkish media reports, in talks which would have been unthinkable in Turkey only a few years ago. Ocalan is widely reviled by Turks who hold him responsible for a conflict that burns at the heart of the nation.
Mr Erdogan has introduced some reforms allowing Kurdish broadcasting and some concessions on language, but activists are demanding more freedom in education and administration.
Turkish broadcasters reported police as saying the women retained links to the PKK and may have been victims of an internal feud.
Several members of the Kurdish community in Paris said Ms Cansiz, who was in her 50s, was a symbolic figure who had been imprisoned in Turkey before obtaining asylum in France.
"She was in charge of communicating information on events in Turkey - she would denounce arbitrary arrests, unsolved murders" of Kurds in Turkey, said a member of the Arts and Culture Academy of Kurdistan who asked not to be identified.
Turkish political analyst Emre Uslu, who previously worked in Turkey's counter-terrorism police unit, said in a blog that the killing of Ms Cansiz could point to a split within the PKK.
He said Ms Cansiz was a leading member of a faction within the PKK that had in the past opposed Ocalan's moves towards peace.
"This group ... could at any moment sabotage the peace talks which will be held with the PKK," Uslu said. "For Turkey to sit down with the PKK before its internal problems are solved is considerably problematic."
Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) opposition party, two of whose members were allowed to pay a rare visit last week to Ocalan on the island in the Marmara Sea where he has been jailed for the last 14 years, condemned the killings.
"We call on our people to hold protest meetings wherever they are to condemn this massacre and stand up for the Kurdish people's martyrs," the party's leaders said in a statement.