Turkey okays offensive against rebels

Cross-border op approved; Bush warns against move; Iraqi PM, Assad call for action against PKK.

October 17, 2007 17:04
2 minute read.
Turkey okays offensive against rebels

turkish troops 224.88. (photo credit: AP)


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Turkey's parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a possible cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, although the government appears willing to give more time to diplomatic pressure on the US-backed Iraqi administration. Parliament voted 507-19 in favor of empowering the government to order the military to cross into Iraq over a one-year period, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan said. Legislators burst into applause. In Washington, President George W. Bush said the United States was making clear to Turkey that it should not launch a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. "We are making it very clear to Turkey that we don't think it is in their interest to send troops into Iraq," Bush said. "Actually they have troops already stationed in Iraq, and they've had troops stationed there for quite a while," he said. "We don't think it's in their interest to send more troops in." Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to dismiss Bush's comments. "What's important is the Parliament's decision, not what people say," private NTV television quoted him as saying. Wednesday's motion - authorizing an incursion into Iraq sometime over the next year - had the backing from all of Turkey's parliamentary parties except a small Kurdish party. Turkish leaders have stressed that an offensive against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, would not immediately follow the parliamentary authorization. Hours before the vote, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called his Turkish counterpart to say that his government was determined to halt the PKK "terrorist activities" on Iraqi territory, and he emphasized the need for the two nations to continue to talk, his office said in a statement. In Paris, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, called on PKK rebels to stop fighting in Turkey, while also urging the Turkish government not to launch an incursion. "We consider activities of PKK against the interests of the Kurdish people first, and then against the interests of Turkey," Talabani told reporters during an official visit to the French capital. "We have asked the PKK to stop fighting, to end the so-called military activity." Turkey has complained about what it considers a lack of US support in the fight against the PKK. It also is frustrated with Washington, after US Congress last week approved a resolution labeling the World War I-era killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians a genocide. Turkey denies there was any systematic campaign to eliminate Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, and says the number of Armenians killed is inflated. Bush repeated calls on Wednesday for Congress to drop the resolution, noting the number of domestic bills pending and saying "One thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire." The House vote was in jeopardy on Tuesday, however, after several Democrats withdrew support for the resolution and sounded alarms it could cripple US relations with Turkey.

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