US Turkey Review Touchy Iraq Mideast Issues

ANKARA (AFX)–US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reviewed touchy regional issues–including Iraq and the Middle East–which have led to coolness between the two countries.

The presence in northern Iraq of an estimated 5,000 armed militants of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party–which is also known as KONGRA-GEL)–held responsible by Ankara for a 15-year civil conflict that claimed more than 30,000 lives in southeast Turkey between 1984 and 1999–is one of several reasons for recent coolness in ties between Ankara and Washington.

Armitage reiterated that US–Turkish–and Iraqi officials will hold three-way talks to discuss the PKK–whose activities Ankara wants US forces in Iraq to curb.

Another bone of contention is Ankara’s unhappiness with the expulsion from oil-rich Kirkuk of Turkish-speaking Iraqi Turkmens by the Kurds–who in turn were expelled from the area by Arabs under Saddam Hussein.

"There have been many segmen’s of Iraqi society who have had their situation changed by force," Armitage told reporters. "The Turkmens are–of course–in this category and the Kurds themselves have been forced out–of particularly Kirkuk–to some degree.

"These are things that have to be corrected in the transitional administrational law?to redress these wrongs for all those who are dispossessed," he said.

"We stressed our concern over Kirkuk," said the Turkish diplomat–speaking on condition of anonymity. "We explained that we had serious concerns over efforts to change the demographic structure and said that this could lead to serious problems."

He said Armitage assured Gul that he was discussing the matter with Massud Barzani and Jalal Talabani–allies of the US and leaders of the two mainstream Kurdish parties in northern Iraq–which borders Turkey.

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