Turkey will seek closer cooperation with the Kurdish leaders of northern Iraq to curb PKK militants taking refuge in their region, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Monday.
Babacan's remarks signaled a change of the Turkish stance towards Iraqi Kurds.
Ankara has accused them in past of harboring militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
"We have had some differences...over the PKK terrorist organization," the Anatolia news agency quoted Babacan as saying. "But in the coming days, you can expect increasing contacts on various levels with the administration of northern Iraq."
Closer dialogue with the Iraqi Kurds "is important with respect to fighting the terrorist organization and also for our economic relations and energy cooperation with Iraq as a whole," the minister said.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, has long used camps in the mountains of northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets across the border.
Ankara has accused the Iraqi Kurds, who run autonomous northern Iraq, of tolerating the PKK and even supplying it with weapons and explosives.
Turkish warplanes have bombed PKK positions in northern Iraq since mid- December. In February, the army conducted a week-long ground offensive against the militants, drawing protests from Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad.
Tensions eased a week after the cross-border operation when Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, visited Ankara and pledged cooperation against the PKK.
But Turkey's ties with the administration of northern Iraq, led by Massuod Barzani, remain chilly.
Last Mod: 28 Nisan 2008, 18:15