Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said yesterday the United States had began sharing real-time intelligence with Turkey against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, signaling that attacks on PKK targets in Iraqi territory could be imminent.
The commander of the air forces, meanwhile, said there has been no air strike so far on PKK targets in northern Iraq, denying reports in the Turkish and international media that Turkish helicopters have bombarded positions on the Iraqi side of the border.
US President George W. Bush pledged at a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Nov. 5 that the US would provide the Turkish military with real-time intelligence to stage cross-border attacks in northern Iraq. Parliament passed a motion last month authorizing a cross-border incursion anytime in the next one year.
"The share of real-time intelligence has begun. This is very important," Babacan told a parliamentary committee session during discussions on his ministry's 2008 budget. "No one should have doubts that the government will use the parliamentary authorization in the most effective way and in the most appropriate time."
"All orders given after the meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Erdoğan have begun to be implemented," he added, without giving further details.
Several Turkish and international news agencies reported on Monday that Turkish helicopters bombarded PKK targets in northern Iraq, apparently after receiving intelligence from the US military in Iraq. But Air Forces Commander Gen. Aydoğan Babaoğlu said he had no idea where the news came from.
"There has been no such operation by the Turkish Air Forces," Babaoğlu said in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), where he is on a visit to attend celebrations on the occasion of the anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Cypriot state. "I was on duty when all televisions gave the news. The reports are completely baseless."
The Iraqi Kurdish administration has also denied the bombing reports. But a spokesman for the Iraqi Kurdish regional administration, Jamal Abdullah, said two Turkish warplanes dropped flares Monday on the mountains near the Iraqi town of Zakho.
Bush's pledge of a real-time intelligence flow to the Turkish military, facilitated by a mechanism of constant communication among the Turkish General Staff, the US military and US forces in Iraq, has been largely welcomed in Turkey as a potentially effective measure against the PKK. But observers say the fate of relations will depend on whether the mechanism produces concrete results.
"We are determined to make sure northern Iraq will not be a nest for the PKK," Babacan told the session of Parliament's Planning and Budget Committee earlier in the day. "Turkey has the will and power to protect itself from this threat. Our government is assessing the problem and taking the necessary steps."
According to Babacan, the issue of the fight against the PKK is still a matter of priority in relations with the United States. He emphasized that whether Turkish-US joint work against the PKK will produce quick and effective results was a new test for ties between the two countries. "It is important that tangible and concrete results be achieved in the fight against terrorism, which is the most pressing and urgent item in our bilateral ties, in the shortest time possible," he asserted.
Iraqi Kurds, as well as the United States, oppose a massive operation by the Turkish military in northern Iraq, the most relatively stable part of the war-torn country. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was quoted as saying yesterday that tensions between Iraq and Turkey over the presence of the PKK have subsided and relations are improving.
"The crisis with Turkey has passed," he told Kuwaiti daily Alrai in an interview, without further explanation, even as Turkish troops remain amassed at the Iraqi border due to the PKK presence in Iraqi Kurdish region's mountainous hinterland.
Iraqi Kurds, under pressure from the United States to take measures against the PKK, have urged the PKK to stop their attacks on Turkey or leave northern Iraq. In other remarks also published yesterday, Talabani stepped up his call on the PKK to halt violence. "Otherwise, the PKK would be confronted by all Kurds in Iraq," he was quoted as saying by CNN Türk.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Kasım 2007, 09:53