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 Turkey may cooperate with Iran against PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan

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Turkey may cooperate with Iran against PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan  16.9.2011  

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September 16, 2011

ISTANBUL, — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has signaled that Turkey could launch a joint operation with Iran against Kurdish militants' main base in Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, according to reports in Turkish newspapers on Friday.

In August, Turkey carried out a series of air and artillery strikes against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq and the interior minister said this week a ground operation could be launched any time against the guerrillas there, depending on the result of talks with Iraq.

The military action was triggered by an increase in PKK attacks in southeast Turkey in which dozens of security personnel were killed.

Speaking to reporters while traveling to Tunisia on a north African tour, Erdogan said the minister's comment had been a slip of the      

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) speaks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting at the government palace in Tunis September 15, 2011 Photo: Reuters
tongue that had been corrected, and that there would be no forewarning of any such operation.


"Things like this are not said, they are done," the Hurriyet daily quoted the prime minister as saying. The same comments were reported by other newspapers.

"The chief of the general staff has completed assessments in the region (southeast Turkey) together with force commanders," he said.

There was no immediate official comment from Iraq.

Speculation about a ground offensive was fueled when Erdogan met military chiefs before his trip to north Africa.

Erdogan was also asked in Tunisia about relations with Iran and cooperation against the PKK and he said: "It's going well. We may act together at Qandil."

The Qandil mountains are on the Iraq-Iran border and the main PKK bases are believed to be located in the mountains, a part of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region around 80-100 km south of the Turkish border.

Iran, Turkey's southeastern neighbor, said this month its troops had killed or wounded 30 members of the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), an offshoot of the PKK that is reported to have launched ambushes and sabotaged pipelines on the Iranian side of the border.

The Turkish military has said its strikes against the PKK in Iraq in August killed 145 to 160 militants. The PKK has only referred to a few casualties and the figures could not be independently confirmed.

A senior Turkish diplomat has been in Iraq for talks with the government this week as Ankara seeks more cooperation against the PKK from Iraq, whose large Kurdish minority,
www.ekurd.netconcentrated in the north, is politically influential.

Turkey has launched several cross-border air and ground operations in Iraqi Kurdistan region in a conflict that first erupted in the 1980s. The PKK is fighting for greater autonomy and Kurdish rights, having earlier sought a separate state.

The last major incursion was in early 2008, when 10,000 of Turkish troops, backed by tanks, attack helicopters and warplanes, crossed into Kurdistan region in northern Iraq on February 21, 2008 in an operation which Ankara said was aimed at Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas and their bases.

Turkish forces withdrew from semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in 'northern Iraq' on February 29, only a day after US President George W. Bush urged Ankara to quickly wrap up the incursion and Defense Secretary Robert Gates personally put pressure on Turkish leaders during a visit to Ankara.

Turkish MPs first approved cross-border operations into Iraqi Kurdistan on October 17, 2007.

From August 17, Turkish jets carried out air strikes against the Kurdish PKK separatist group's bases in Iraqi Kurdistan region, under justification of chasing elements of the anti-Ankara PKK, forcing large numbers of Kurdish citizens of those areas to desert their home villages, including an air raid that killed 7 Kurdish civilians in a village north of Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah city on August 21st.

Erdogan's comments to reporters also indicated a tougher approach on the Kurdish issue generally after government efforts to negotiate a solution failed to yield a result.

"The separatist terrorist group and its political offshoots should not expect goodwill and understanding from us as in the past," Erdogan said.

This week, recordings have been posted on the Internet of apparent talks in recent years between top Turkish intelligence officials and leading PKK members with the aim of ending the conflict.

Erdogan said investigations were continuing on how the recordings were leaked. He has said previously that the state has held talks with the PKK.

Since it was established in 1984, the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 
 
  

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