TURKISH PM CALLS FOR US ACTION
Sept 28 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007 (New York)
Turkey’s Prime Minister urged the United States to act against Kurdish
rebels who have escalated attacks on his country from bases in Iraq,
warning that continued inaction was harming US relations with its
key Muslim ally.
Turkey has become increasingly frustrated with the US for failing to
live up to promises to tackle separatist guerrillas from the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party or PKK, who have been fleeing across the border into
Iraq’s predominantly Kurdish northern provinces.
Turkey massed troops on its border with Iraq earlier this year,
and officials are debating whether to stage a military incursion.
"Our expectations are very clear on this point. The Iraqi authorities
and the US must urgently take concrete measures beyond simply paying
lip service. Unfortunately so far we have not seen any concrete steps,"
said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip.
Erdogan said on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in
Under a proposed counter terrorism pact with Iraq, Turkey wants its
troops to have the right to pursue the rebels across the border,
according to Turkish media.
But the agreement, which was expected to be signed on Thursday,
has yet to be approved.
The US considers the PKK a terrorist organization, but officials
have been reluctant to act for fear of widening the Iraq conflict
and increasing violence in what has been Iraq’s most stable region.
Iraqi officials, already weary of what they see as domestic challenges
to their sovereignty, including the US detention of Iranians in the
north and the recent killing of at least 11 Iraqis by US security
contractors, are not eager to see yet another foreign force crossing
over their border.
Relations have been strained between Washington and Ankara for years,
mostly over the Iraq war.
Territory to invade
Turkey, a strategically important NATO ally, refused to allow US troops
to use its territory to invade Iraq in 2003 and a recent opinion poll
found only 9 per cent of Turks had a favorable view of America.
Erdogan voiced support for a timeline on the withdrawal of foreign
troops from Iraq.
"If coalition forces announce a timeline, then Iraqi forces will
take responsibility. If there’s a timeline and training they’ll take
control," he said.
The issue of a troop withdrawal has been a big factor internationally
and in the US where support for the war has largely dissipated,
leaving President George W Bush struggling to make a case for a
continued US troop presence in the country.
Bush administration and US military officials have said while Iraqi
forces are making some gains, they are not yet ready to assume full
Erdogan also reiterated strong opposition to a US congressional
resolution introduced in January that would recognize the killings
of Armenians in the early 1900s as genocide.
Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by
Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed
by genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.
Victims of civil war
Turkey, however, denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying that
the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of
civil war and unrest.
The United Nations has not recognized the killings as genocide.
Similar resolutions have been introduced in the US before, but were
always kept from a full vote by congressional leaders.
The Bush administration has tried to quash the current resolution
because of pressure from Turkey.