Turkey rejects Iraqi proposals to tackle Kurds

Turkey on Friday rejected Iraqi proposals to stop Kurdish rebels making cross-border attacks as too little, too late and said it remained in a “constant state of alert”.

A visit for crisis talks to Ankara by a high-ranking Iraqi delegation led by its defence and national security ministers was “a positive effort ... well-intentioned and sincere”, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

“However ... we see that the Iraqi delegation has come with ideas that will take a long time to implement.
The time factor is very important.

“Turkey,” it said, “expects urgent and determined measures in the fight against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] terror organisation.”

Turkey says PKK rebels, who have been waging a bloody campaign for self-rule in south-east Turkey since 1984, enjoy safe haven in bases in northern Iraq and it has long complained about what it calls United States and Iraqi inaction.

After an ambush on a military patrol on Sunday killed 12 soldiers and left eight captured, Turkey’s Parliament authorised the government to order military incursions against the bases of the PKK inside Iraq.

The Turkish army has since massed men and equipment along the border and said it killed more than 60 Kurdish rebels in fighting. Washington and Baghdad are opposed to any Turkish incursion.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after returning from Romania that his country remained “in a constant state of alert” but hinted that any cross-border operation was unlikely to happen before he flies to Washington on November 5.

Erdogan told reporters that military action was part of a “process” that includes his meeting with US President George Bush at the White House next month.

Iraq’s proposals at Friday’s meeting included coalition forces watching over the Turkish/Iraqi border and the creation of more and reinforced military outposts along the border to prevent infiltration by PKK rebels.

Baghdad also suggested direct talks between the Turkish, Iraqi and US military and the revival of a tripartite panel to coordinate the fight against the PKK.

The solution to the problem “must in any case be political and diplomatic”, the Iraqis said.

Iraq Defence Minister Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassim and National Security Minister Shirwan al-Waeli discussed the proposals with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and Interior Minister Besir Atalay for 90 minutes on Friday morning and for a further four-and-a-half hours in the afternoon.

Washington and Baghdad have vowed to make good on promises to crack down on the PKK, but Turkish leaders, facing strong domestic pressure for rapid military action, have voiced mounting exasperation.

The Iraqi delegation included Iraq’s intelligence chief and representatives of the two major Kurdish parties in northern Iraq, as well as a US military officer.—AFP

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