The Iraqi foreign minister said Friday that the Turkish military has begun withdrawing from northern Iraq. "We welcome this move," Hoshyar Zebari told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "The timing is good. I think the military carried out its promises" to remove Turkish troops after finishing operations against Kurdish separatist rebels. Zebari said regional Iraqi authorities had informed him that the Turkish troops were leaving northern Iraq, and the Turkish military had targeted only the rebels, not civilians living in the remote region. The foreign minister said he hoped Turkey "will respect the sovereignty of Iraq." The move came a day after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Turkish leaders during a visit in Ankara that they should end the offensive as soon as possible. In Washington, US President George W. Bush made a similar point Thursday, saying Turkey needed to move quickly and get out. Zebari credited the US with playing an "instrumental" role in pressing Turkey to leave. "The US played a very important role on all fronts to remind Turkey of the seriousness of the situation," Zebari said. Rebel spokesman Ahmad Danas said the Turkish military had withdrawn from al-Zap area, about eight kilometers (five miles) from the border. He also credited the US with pressuring Turkey to leave. Turkey launched the incursion into northern Iraq more than a week ago against separatist rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group fighting for the autonomy of predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey. The rebels have carried out attacks in Turkey from bases in Kurdish Iraq. Iraqi authorities have said they do not support the PKK but objected to Turkey's military action. The PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984. The fighting has killed up to 40,000 people.