Bush Says Turkey, U.S. To Expand Effort On PKK
Bush Says Turkey, U.S. To Expand Effort on Kurdish Terror Group
President Bush pledged to increase U.S. intelligence-sharing and security cooperation with Turkey to confront terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), following a recent deadly series of PKK cross-border attacks from northern Iraq.
"The PKK is a terrorist organization. They're an enemy of Turkey, they're an enemy of Iraq and they're an enemy of the United States," Bush told reporters following his November 5 Oval Office meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Since the early 1980s, the PKK has been operating from strongholds in a mountainous border region of southeastern Turkey, where it has waged a terrorist campaign to carve out a Kurdish state. More than 37,000 military personnel, police and civilians have been killed in the long-running conflict with the group, which the United States identifies as a terrorist organization.
The latest series of PKK cross-border attacks began in October and largely has targeted Turkish army and police units, killing 35 soldiers and 15 civilians. The attacks also have prompted calls for action from across Turkey, including threats of possible economic sanctions against Iraq or even Turkish military strikes if Iraq fails to curb the PKK's cross-border attacks.
On October 17, the Turkish parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of a military strike in northern Iraq, and Turkish political and military leaders have stated that decisions would hinge on the outcome of the meeting between Bush and Erdoğan.
U.S. officials have been working intensively to bring its allies in Turkey and Iraq together against the PKK to avoid further military action, which could destabilize the delicate security balance in northern Iraq and the wider region. (See related article.)
The meeting between Bush and Erdoğan followed November 2 talks in the Turkish capital, Ankara, among Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Turkish and Iraqi counterparts to "redouble" counterterrorism cooperation and prevent future PKK attacks into southeastern Turkey.
The conversation continued in Istanbul, Turkey, November 3, on the sidelines of the Iraq Neighbors Conference, a gathering of diplomats from across the Middle East, as well as representatives from the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the European Union, the United Nations and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- to help Iraqis chart a new course for their future.
In addition to intelligence-sharing, Bush pledged increased contacts in a "tripartite agreement" among the Turkish army general staff, the U.S. Defense Department and General David Petraeus, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, for better tracking of PKK movements.
"It is important to work jointly and in solidarity with our strategic partner the United States," Erdoğan said, citing close U.S.-Turkish cooperation on Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic initiatives to promote peace and stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Somalia.
"There is a lot of difficulty in the region in general, and I believe that it falls to us as strategic partners to work to ensure that we overcome these difficulties and solve them," Erdoğan said. "I have also seen that the president and I agree on these points, and I'm very happy to see that."
Meanwhile, authorities in Iraq's Kurdish-dominated northern provinces have honored their pledges to clamp down on the terrorists by closing offices operated by known PKK supporters. On November 4, authorities also secured the release of eight Turkish soldiers captured October 21 by PKK gunmen.
"We made a firm decision to shut down all the bureaus of the PKK in Iraq," Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told delegates at the Iraq Neighbors Conference. "We affirm here that the Iraqi Constitution obligates us to respect our relations with neighboring states and not to allow our territories to be used as a base or passage for attacks against any states in the region."
"I made it very clear to the prime minister that we want to work in a close way to deal with this problem," Bush told reporters at the conclusion of his meeting with the Turkish prime minister.