Turks US Agree on Plan to Eradicate Kurd Rebels

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey and the United States have agreed on an action plan to banish the threat of Turkish Kurdish rebels based in camps in northern Iraq–a Turkish official said on Thursday after talks with US officials.

Turkey has called on Washington to take concrete action to deal with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants–also known as Kadek–as it considers asking parliament to send troops to Iraq to help keep the peace there.

"We have agreed on an action plan with the United States to eradicate PKK/Kadek from northern Iraq," Turkish foreign ministry official Nabi Sensoy told an Ankara news conference after the talks.

Turkey stations thousands of troops just inside northern Iraq in a controversial deployment designed to stop hundreds of PKK militants from launching attacks on Turkish soil.

The presence of the Turkish troops has been a source of friction with Washington. US troops briefly detained 11 Turkish commandos in northern Iraq in July on suspicion they were involved in a plot to kill a senior Iraqi Kurdish official.

The United States has made it clear to Turkey that it is committed to dealing with the PKK–US state department official Cofer Black told the same news conference.

"We are very clear about this: PKK/Kadek is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization. There is no place in Iraq for PKK/Kadek," he said.

CONDITIONAL LOAN

A US official said earlier on Thursday that Ankara had pledged to refrain from unilateral military action in northern Iraq in return for $8.5 billion in loans for its frail economy.

The country’s powerful armed forces–which have long reserved the right to intervene in the Iraqi Kurdish enclave if Turkish national security is threatened–said they would feel deeply uneasy at any such undertaking.

The NATO member already stations thousands of troops just inside northern Iraq in a controversial deployment it says is needed to stop hundreds of Turkish Kurdish separatist guerrillas returning to Turkey to launch attacks there.

The presence of the Turkish troops has been a source of friction with Washington. US troops briefly detained 11 Turkish commandos in northern Iraq in July on suspicion they were involved in a plot to kill a senior Iraqi Kurdish official.

The US official said the loan deal–signed last week–mirrored laws passed by the US Congress on April 16–which said US financing meant Turkey must cooperate in stabilizing Iraq and not intervene unilaterally in the country’s north.

"The deal says basically what the April 16 law says," he said. "There is nothing new–hidden or secret in what the agreement says."

One of Turkey’s top generals–land forces commander Aytac Yalman–said he had not been officially informed of such a link between the loan and Turkish operations in northern Iraq.

"This issue causes deep unease. I feel as uneasy about this as any other citizen would… to tie the $8.5 billion to such an issue," Yalman told reporters in Ankara.

GOVERNMENT-ARMY TENSIONS

The US loan agreement may further raise tensions between the Justice and Development Party government and the powerful military–which already suspects the party of following a hidden "Islamist" agenda.

Turkey’s military fears any independence moves by Iraqi Kurds–close allies of the United States–would strengthen the hand of rebel Turkish Kurds. The government has also urged US forces to act vigorously against Turkish Kurds in northern Iraq.

The Turkish-US loan deal reflects a warming in frail relations with NATO ally Washington–battered by the refusal of parliament to allow in US troops ahead of the war in neighboring Iraq.

Turkey’s military has fought a decades-long war against the PKK rebels at the cost of over 30,000 lives–most of them Kurds.

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