Turkish army confirms the operation in Iraq completed on Friday

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Turkish army confirms the operation in Iraq completed on Friday
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Şubat 29, 2008 11:26

Turkey pulled its troops out of northern Iraq on Friday and ended a major offensive against outlawed PKK separatists, saying all the goals had been achieved. "It was determined that the aims set at the start of the operation had been achieved," the General Staff said in a statement. "Our units returned to their bases (in Turkey) on the morning of Feb. 29." White House on Friday called Turkey's just-completed ground incursion in Iraq "targeted and relatively short". (UPDATED)

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A statement by Turkey's armed forces General Staff denied any foreign influence on the decision, which came a day after U.S President George W. Bush urged a swift end to offensive. "There was no question of completely liquidating the terrorist organisation, but Turkey has shown the organisation that northern Iraq is not a safe haven for them," the General Staff said. Turkey's military said it had killed 240 PKK separatists in the eight-day ground offensive and suffered the loss of 27 soldiers.

The White House on Friday called Turkeys just-completed ground incursion in northern Iraq "targeted and relatively short" and vowed sustained US support against PKK based there. "There is one thing that remains clear, and that is the United States, Turkey, and Iraq all will continue to view the PKK as a terrorist organization that needs to be dealt with," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "It was a targeted and relatively short operation," Johndroe added.

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"But I would certainly expect that, in the future, that unless the PKK gives up terrorism, that were going to have to continue to work with the Turks and the Iraqis to go after them," said the spokesman. The United States, which also labels the PKK a terrorist group, supported its NATO ally during the incursion with intelligence on outlawed fighter movements. "We will continue to have cooperation with them in dealing with that organization," added Johndroe, AFP reported.

Thousands of Turkish troops, backed by warplanes and attack helicopters, crossed the border on February 21 to root out PKK separatists and destroy their numerous bases. It is Turkey's first major ground offensive against the PKK in northern Iraq in a decade.

Turkey's political and military leaders have said the operation will continue for as long as necessary but have come under pressure from the United States. On Thursday, Bush urged Turkey to end the land offensive swiftly. During a brief visit to Ankara on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had failed to obtain a timetable for a Turkish withdrawal. Washington, like Ankara and the EU, brands the PKK a terrorist organization, and has been supplying intelligence to the Turkish military on the PKK in Iraq.

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NTV news channel has reported in Friday morning Turkish army ended the operation and troops started to return home. Iraqi, American and Turkish officials later told the news agencies the withdrawal was limited, not an end of the operation. However the first official announcement about the completion of the operation came from Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. Turkish army confirmed the operation ended in the afternoon.

Meanwhile the official Anatolian Agency withdrew the embargoed text of the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's speech scheduled to be televised on Friday night. The Anatolian Agency put the story on wire on Friday morning and it was embargoed until the speech is broadcasted. ANKA news agency said Erdogan changed the original text following the completion of the operation. Erdogan was expected to say, "Turkish Armed Forces has been executing the operation successfully. Our soldiers will return as soon as the planned targets are reached", according to the withdrawn text. His speech was shot on Wednesday night.

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