Neutrality no option in anti-PKK fight, Turkey tells Iraqi Kurds

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has urged the Iraqi Kurds to cooperate with Turkey in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying that otherwise Turkey will have every right to enter Iraqi territory to prevent PKK attacks on Turkish targets.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) walks with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi before their talks in Ankara on Friday, Oct. 28, 2001. (Photo: AA)

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) walks with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi before their talks in Ankara on Friday, Oct. 28, 2001. (Photo: AA)

“Turkey cannot let an entity that constitutes a clear and direct threat to itself exist right across its borders,” Davutoğlu said in a televised interview on Saturday. “The northern Iraqi administration should stop this terrorist entity and cooperate with us. Otherwise, we will enter [Iraq] and stop it. This is our right that stems from international law.”The Turkish military launched a cross-border offensive after a deadly PKK attack on Oct. 19, when 24 soldiers were killed in the province of Hakkari, which borders Iraq. The PKK has bases in Kurdish-run northern Iraq and uses them as a springboard for attacks on Turkey.

Davutoğlu said it was time for everyone to clarify their stance vis-à-vis terrorism. “We have made numerous warnings and heard many promises — both by the central Iraqi government and the regional government in northern Iraq. Now, our message is clear: Everybody should come up with a clear stance. Neutrality is not acceptable in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Nechirvan Barzani, a senior Iraqi Kurdish official, rushed to Ankara after the Oct. 19 attack to express solidarity. Massoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdish administration, is also expected to visit Ankara soon to discuss anti-PKK cooperation.

Asked whether Massoud Barzani’s anti-terror stance was clear enough, Davutoğlu said there have been positive developments regarding the Kurdish administration’s stance over the past years. “The immediate condemnation of the attack, the visit [by Nechirvan Barzani] in the wake of the attack and the expression of readiness to act together with Turkey are all positive developments,” Davutoğlu said.

Asked if the Kurdish administration was ready for military cooperation as well, Davutoğlu said, “Of course, the military aspect is essential in the fight against terrorism.”

Speaking after talks with Nechirvan Barzani, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey is seeking cooperation with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in its fight against the PKK along the border with northern Iraq.

Davutoğlu did not rule out the creation of a buffer zone or a military base inside northern Iraq, saying that “all measures will be taken” to eliminate the PKK presence. The foreign minister said the Iraqi Kurdish administration has supported Turkish measures against the PKK.

Hashemi supports Turkish operations in Iraq

Iraq’s Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who had talks with Erdoğan and Davutoğlu on Friday, also supported Turkish military operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, saying the Turkish counterterrorism measures were “legitimate.”

“It is obvious that the PKK carries out attacks on Turkey from Iraqi soil. Turkey can of course launch operations in Iraqi territory,” Hashemi told state broadcaster TRT in an interview. He underlined, however, that any cross-border offensive should take place when “necessary,” be concluded when its mission is accomplished and be coordinated with the Iraqi side.

Hashemi said Prime Minister Erdoğan was “very determined” to finish off the PKK this time.

The Iraqi vice president also underlined that Iraq was not involved in the PKK issue, since PKK members were citizens of Turkey, and said political measures would be as important as military ones in countering terrorism. He particularly pointed out that Turkey’s efforts to draft a new constitution could help solve the issue if the new constitution contains reforms that would invalidate the PKK’s cause.

But the Iraqi vice president avoided any commitment to fight the PKK militarily, saying the Iraqi government still has no troops to secure its borders. “But we will be able to have border troops in the future and when we have that, we will better protect our southern and northern borders,” he said.

Asked whether a joint Turkish-Iraqi operation against the PKK was possible, Hashemi was again non-committal, saying that existing agreements between Turkey and Iraq do not provide the legal ground for such operations. “New agreements should be signed,” he said.




30 October 2011, Sunday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM,