|ANKARA - The northern Iraqi city of Arbil will be the center of a trilateral committee formed to struggle against terrorism in a step that could be seen as an important policy shift for Turkey. (UPDATED)
"There is a trilateral mechanism established by us, Turkey and the United States. We want to form a joint command center in Arbil," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan in Ankara.
Turkey, Iraq and the U.S. in November formed a joint committee to combat the PKK after holding three-way talks in Baghdad as part of efforts to boost cooperation against the terrorists.
Turkey, who stepped up its campaign to crackdown on the terror organization PKK, has long blamed the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq for supporting the PKK.
The center will include intelligence officials from Turkey, Iraq and the United States. The Iraqi delegation will also include intelligence officials from northern Iraq.
The center aims to urgently take necessary measures against the terror organization PKK, which launches cross-border attacks on Turkey from bases in Iraq. Arbil was selected as center of the committee in order to facilitate intelligence-sharing in the region, Turkish officials told hurriyet.com.tr.
MINISTERS TO MEET IN ISTANBUL
Zebari also said there is a new and positive environment of cooperation on the issue and praised Turkey's dialogue with the regional Kurdish administration in northern Iraq. He added that PKK terrorists represent a "poisonous element" in Turkish-Iraq relations.
Babacan told the press conference that Turkey wants to see concrete action by the central government in Baghdad and the regional Kurdish administration in northern Iraq to eradicate the PKK terrorists, adding that political statements need to be transformed into "solid steps".
Babacan and Zebari also said they, accompanied by related ministers, will gather in Istanbul in the coming weeks in a bid to start the meetings at the ministerial level under an established cooperation council.
Turkey and Iraq have agreed to establish a Strategic Cooperation High Council to promote relations and to deal with the terror organization PKK. The council foresees at least one meeting a year with prime ministers, and three representatives at the ministerial level.
NO DRASTIC DECISION FROM OBAMA
Zebari also said the new U.S. administration has reassured Iraq that President Barack Obama will make no "drastic" decision on an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.
He said Iraq was to hold three elections in 2009, two local and one general, cautioning that the stakes were "too high" for both Iraq and the United States.
During his election campaign, Obama promised to bring all U.S. troops home from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, but also said he would listen to his generals, and has since narrowed the reduction pledge to combat units.