Turkish forces will stay in Iraq 'as long as necessary'

The Turkish army will remain in northern Iraq “as long as necessary”, Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul said on Thursday, refusing to give a timetable for a troop withdrawal.

“Turkey will remain in northern Iraq as long as necessary,” Gonul told reporters after talks with United States Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

He said Turkey is targeting only rebel fighters of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has “no intention to occupy any area” in the region.

Gates said “a specific timetable did not come up” in the meeting with Gonul and urged Turkey to wrap up its operation as soon as possible.

Turkey’s offensive “should be as short and precisely targeted as possible”, he said.

Gates is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and Chief of General Staff Yasar Buyukanit later in the day.

The American warned Turkey on Tuesday that its incursion in northern Iraq should last no more than “a week or two”.

Turkish forces stormed into northern Iraq on February 21 to uproot the PKK, which has long used camps in the region as a springboard for attacks inside Turkish territory.—AFP

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