GeriGündem Iraqi Kurds cold to PKK fight
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Iraqi Kurds cold to PKK fight

Iraqi Kurds cold to PKK fight
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ANKARA - The Iraqi Prime Minister’s visit to Ankara is an attempt to bolster closer relations and economic cooperation. Yet the Iraqi leader makes no mention of how the PKK problem that casts a shadow on bilateral relations could be resolved. 'We should not let the PKK harm bilateral ties,' he says after meeting with Prime Minister Erdoğan

As Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began a visit yesterday to the Turkish capital for talks on ways to fight the terrorist PKK organization, based in northern Iraq, Iraqi Kurds have remained cold toward an armed combat against the organization.

"We are here to protect all the interests of the two countries," al-Maliki told reporters at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport. Accompanied by six ministers to bolster close relations and economic cooperation, the Iraqi leader made no mention of how the PKK problem that casts a shadow on bilateral relations would be resolved.

On Monday, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, suggested he had discussed the issue of the PKK disarmament with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, among other things. He said he would hold detailed talks on the issue with al-Maliki and find out what Talabani meant to say when he referred to a four-stage plan to root out the PKK.

On the eve of Maliki’s visit, Talabani said an amnesty may be offered as an incentive to persuade the PKK to lay down arms. Talabani, a Kurd, said a peaceful resolution to the conflict was a viable solution for all parties involved in the conflict. When asked about an amnesty for the PKK, Erdoğan did not give a direct answer and said the law on PKK members returning home was not a new issue on Turkey’s agenda, and said his government had already passed the relevant law.

"We should not let the PKK harm bilateral ties," al-Maliki said in brief remarks after meeting with Erdoğan. For his part, the Turkish prime minister said the PKK was regarded as a terrorist organization by Iraq.

"The fight against terror is a joint area of cooperation between the two countries. Any kind of terror should be condemned," Erdoğan said. Reporters were prohibited from asking questions after statements made by the leaders.

As al-Maliki met with Turkish leaders in the capital, interesting remarks came from Massoud Barzani, head of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Administration in northern Iraq.

Measures promised
"We do not allow Kurdish blood to be shed by Kurds," Barzani was quoted as saying. He said the Iraqi Kurds would support any peaceful means for an end to the PKK problem, except war.

Turkish diplomats, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, said both Talabani and Barzani had indicated they would not use the military to fight the PKK, but would support the fight against the terrorist group. "We do not know how this will happen," said a Turkish diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous.

Turkey has long accused Iraqi Kurds of tolerating, and even aiding, the PKK that uses northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks into Turkey’s southeastern region. But in a policy shift, Ankara has recently stepped up diplomacy to address the issue and intensified contact with Iraqi Kurds. Turkish President Abdullah Gül will visit Iraq in January after a postponement earlier this month due to an ear ailment that prevented him from flying.

In his latest remarks, Talabani said they would take the necessary measures against the PKK, and added, Kurdish parties in northern Iraq would soon convene a meeting to issue a joint appeal to the PKK to abandon its armed struggle.

The visit by al-Maliki, who met with both Gül and Erdoğan yesterday, came in a climate of renewed hope for greater cooperation against the PKK following an agreement by Turkey, Iraq and the United States last month to establish a trilateral mechanism to combat the terrorist organization.

"The trilateral committee has been formed. This committee convened in Baghdad and some decisions were made. We support those decisions. The primary task of this committee is the fight against the PKK," al-Maliki said at the airport.

He also held talks with Turkish officials about the status of forces agreement between Iraq and the United States. Under the agreement, the airspace of Iraq will be taken under the control of the central Iraqi government as of January 2009 and thus Turkey will inform Baghdad, not the United States, about future air strikes to hit PKK camps in northern Iraq.

Al-Maliki is scheduled to travel to Iran after wrapping up talks in Turkey on Thursday morning.
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