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The Australian Times: Stay out of northern Iraq, US tells Turkey


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Stay out of northern Iraq, US tells Turkey

Suna Erdem, Istanbul

July 21, 2006

WASHINGTON has warned Turkey that the US opposes any attempt by Istanbul to pursue separatist Kurdish rebels into northern Iraq.

The statement came a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his security forces were drawing up such plans.

Although such a move would prove domestically popular, it is likely to hurt Turkey's already precarious EU accession talks and threaten to destabilise the calmest part of its strife-ridden neighbour.

The US statement, issued by its embassy in Ankara, said Turkey had a right to defend itself against Kurdish rebels but warned against unilateral action across the border.

Mr Erdogan said: "There is no point in endlessly discussing the issue. Our security forces are getting on with their task. Whatever steps need to be taken will definitely be taken."

Ankara has long been asking the US military to clamp down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been using northern Iraq as a base from which to attack Turkish troops.

On Tuesday, Mr Erdogan accused the US of double standards for supporting Israel's offensives against Hezbollah and Hamas while denying Turkey the right to pursue the PKK.

The guerillas, who have been fighting a separatist insurgency in Turkey since 1984, recently stepped up attacks, killing 15 Turkish soldiers in five days.

Options for a response range from a brief air operation to an incursion of up to 60km into Iraqi territory involving 50,000 troops.

Mr Erdogan said the ambassadors of the US and Iraq had been informed of Turkey's demands to act against the PKK. Washington has in the past told Turkey that it had its hands too full elsewhere in Iraq.

PKK violence in southeast Turkey had all but died down after Abdullah Ocalan, its leader, was captured in 1999 and the demoralised group declared a unilateral truce.

A state of emergency was lifted in the region and Turkey, urged by the EU, hesitantly accorded greater rights to its restive Kurdish minority.

However, the PKK called off its ceasefire two years ago and is mounting increasingly effective and intense attacks on Turkish troops.

Where the Turkish army was once able to move freely across the border - and even leave thousands of troops there permanently - the US-led invasion put the territory off limits.

"Turkey has rights arising from international and domestic law and it will use those rights to the full," said Justice Minister Cemil Cicek after a lengthy cabinet meeting about the military losses.

His statement prompted a warning from the US ambassador, but Mr Erdogan retorted by saying that a foreign ambassador had no say in Turkey's military decisions.

The Times



I found this to be interesting, and not reported in the US news media...Chirst this war in Iraq is really turning out good...Can you imagine a Civil war along with a war in North Iraq?


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