WASHINGTON (AFP)–US President George W. Bush Thursday said Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish northern Iraq should be limited and temporary, and urged the Turks to wrap up the operation "as quickly as possible."
Bush told a news conference that he agreed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the necessity for the incursion to be limited and temporary in nature.
"The Turks need to move quickly, achieve their objective and then get out… as quickly as possible," he said.
Gates said he told his Turkish counterpart on Thursday that Turkey should end its offensive against Kurds in northern Iraq as soon as possible but said the US is making no threats against its NATO ally if it fails to comply.
"The United States believes the current offensive should be as short and precisely targeted as possible," Gates said after a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.
Gates said that a specific timetable for the Turks to stop their attack "did not come up during my meeting with the defense minister," but he said before flying to Turkey that withdrawal should come in a matter of days, or weeks, rather than months.
"The key is for us to make clear what our interests are, our concerns about the situation in Iraq," Gates said at a news conference with Gonul. "What is important is to serve both the interests of the United States and Turkey because I think we have shared interests.
"I think that those interests are probably not advanced by making threats or threatening to cut off intelligence," Gates added.
Gates delivered his message in a face-to-face meeting with Gonul in advance of meetings with other top Turkish officials, including the prime minister and president.
But Turkey’s Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and army chief Yasar Buyukanit offered no timetable for a pullout in their talks with Gates, insisting Turkey would "remain in northern Iraq as long as necessary" and would wipe out PKK hideouts before withdrawing.
Gates said he told the defense minister that military action alone will not end the threat from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turks view as terrorists.
The US defense secretary, however, said on a flight back to Washington Thursday that he thought the Turks had "got the message" to wrap up their incursion in northern Iraq quickly.
"In the sessions that we had, there was no specific mention of a date. I think they got our message, though," Gates said.
Gonul said the Turks have no intention of disturbing civilian areas of Iraq or occupying any portion of Iraq. He said the main goal is to destroy the PKK network in Iraq and render the organization unusable. He said he believes doing that would contribute both to the security in Iraq as well as stability in the region.
Even as Gates met with the Turks Thursday, Turkish warplanes bombed PKK positions in northern Iraq and intensive fighting was reported near a major PKK base in the Zap area, Iraqi security sources said.