Today.Az » Politics » Turkey to lobby U.S. over Kurd rebels in N.Iraq
03 February 2007 [13:00] - Today.Az
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, facing pressure on security issues ahead of elections, will send his foreign minister to Washington next week to lobby for a crackdown on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

Ankara has repeatedly threatened to send troops into northern Iraq to crush Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels if U.S. and Iraqi government forces fail to take action, though most analysts dismiss the threats as rhetoric to impress voters.

There are presidential and parliamentary polls in 2007.

Against a backdrop of rising nationalism in Turkey, partly due to disillusionment with the European Union accession process, the ruling centre-right AK Party says it cannot stand idly by if PKK attacks resume as expected in the spring.

Ankara says some 4,000 PKK rebels are based in northern Iraq from where they stage attacks into Turkish territory.

Since the PKK launched its armed campaign for a Kurdish homeland in 1984 more than 30,000 people have been killed, mostly in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul will hold talks with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

"Gul will seek U.S. support in cracking down on PKK terrorists. It's a major security concern for us," said a Turkish diplomat.

"We can't just sit on the sidelines when our boys are being killed. We have been promised action but seen few results."

Relations between NATO member Turkey and the U.S. have improved after a low in 2003 when Ankara denied U.S. forces permission to use its territory for the Iraqi invasion, but Gul will still face a tough time.

While the Americans value Turkey as an ally -- the country's neighbours include Iraq, Iran and Syria -- and consider the PKK a terrorist organisation, Washington may be wary of a crackdown in northern Iraq because the area is a rare haven of relative calm in a country ablaze.

Turkish media have said the government may propose a compromise deal where Turkish, U.S. and Iraqi forces jointly carry out attacks against PKK targets.

Armed forces chief General Yasar Buyukanit will follow in Gul's footsteps a week later for talks with Cheney, CIA Director Robert Gates and Hadley -- also focused on Iraq.

"This will be a more important meeting as the U.S. military has no love lost for Turkey," said CNN Turk diplomatic editor Semih Idiz.

"The Turkish military is concerned that the Americans are in cahoots with the (Iraqi) Kurds and in contact with the PKK."

Talks will also probably touch on Kirkuk, an ethnically-mixed northern Iraqi city which has vast oil reserves.

Kurds want to annex the city for their capital and Iraq's new constitution mandates a local referendum on the issue later this year.

Turkey is worried that greater autonomy for the Kurdish-controlled area will threaten Turkey's own security and has said it wants the referendum postponed. Reuters

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