CRAWFORD–Texas (AFP)–The United States appealed to Turkey to delay its invasion of Iraq in an effort to destroy Kurdish insurgency strongholds.
Over the weekend–President George Bush telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and urged a postponement of an invasion of Iraq. Officials said Bush–in his second phone call in three days–pledged to intensify US efforts to eliminate strongholds of the Kurdish Workers Party–or PKK–in Iraq’s Kandil mountains.
They discussed the need to work jointly to address that terrorist threat," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also contacted her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul. They said what ever is necessary will be done–the Turkish Zaman daily newspaper reported.
Rice told Gul that the US is aware of the seriousness of the problem and would not let it go unattended. She said the US would definitely do whatever was needed.
Matthew Bryza–US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs–held a press conference in Washington and promised concrete steps would be taken against the PKK soon.
The most important item in Rice -Gul’s phone conversation was the PKK issue.
Gul told Rice that Turkey wanted an immediate–visible–sensible–and concrete solution to the PKK issue. Turkey would be seriously hampered in its aid efforts to Iraq as long as the PKK existed.
The two phone conversations were welcome relief to Ankara and raised optimism that the US would take firm steps against the PKK.
As for tripartite meeting–which was attended by military–diplomatic–and intelligence officials from the US–Turkey–and Iraq–sources said–any decisions made would be as important as the meeting held.
Tripartite meetings were previously held in February 2005 and August 2005 in Ankara and Washington respectively. The results–however–did not satisfy Ankara.
The statement–"concrete results are expected," is being interpreted as several PKK leaders may be arrested–and handed over to Turkey.
In 2005–Turkey delivered official documen’s to Iraqi and US officials about 150 PKK members. However–neither Baghdad nor Washington has taken any steps so far.
President Jalal Talabani said Iraqi territory should not be used to launch attacks against Turkey but insisted that Iraq’s sovereignty should be respected.
The president’s commen’s came a day after Turkish troops killed two Kurdish rebels in a clash near the border with Iraq and amid increasing threats by Turkey to launch attacks against members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party–or PKK–in northern Iraq.
"It is necessary to solve the pending matters between Iraq and Turkey and securing the border between the two countries," Talabani said according to a statement released by his office. "Iraq’s territories should not be used and exploited against Turkey."
The PKK has been battling for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast for the past two decades in a fight that has killed more than 37,000 people. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey–the United States and the European Union.
There has been escalating tension between Turkey and rebels. The deaths of 15 soldiers in three separate attacks last week prompted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to say the Turkish military was considering a cross-border operation to clear PKK bases in northern Iraq.
The US–which has some 130,000 troops in Iraq–is strongly opposed to such an operation.
"Iraq’s sovereignty and independence should be respected," Talabani said when he received Turkey’s acting ambassador.