The US Embassy in Ankara strongly rejected a claim on Monday that US forces in Iraq were seen delivering weapons to members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based there, describing the claim as “ridiculous.”
The claim was floated by four ex-PKK members who handed themselves over to Turkish authorities this weekend after escaping from a PKK camp in northern Iraq and held a press conference on Sunday at a paramilitary base in the southeastern Anatolian province of Şırnak. The four -- who wore masks to disguise their identities -- said they had seen two US armored vehicles deliver weapons to the PKK at their camp.
“We refute this allegation, which is certainly ridiculous. As we said many times before -- and I’ll say it again -- the PKK is a terrorist organization and US designated it as a terrorist organization. We don’t help terrorists, we don’t deal and work with terrorists,” US Embassy Press Attaché Kathryn Schalow told Today’s Zaman on Monday.
The claim could not be independently verified but it is still likely to deepen public suspicions concerning US policy in Iraq.
Zeki Sezer, leader of the small Democratic Left Party (DSP), which joined forces with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for the upcoming elections, said the allegations had to be seriously investigated.
Turkey has long urged US forces to crack down on the PKK, which has bases in northern Iraq. Washington says it understands the Turks’ frustration but its forces are sorely stretched battling an insurgency in central Iraq.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, commenting on the former PKK members’ claim about the US armored vehicles, Gül said he was still awaiting a detailed report.
In an interview with Today’s Zaman, Gül said a military operation was among options against the PKK. He also said Turkey would not seek approval from the US if its security and national interests are at risk due to the PKK threat.
PKK vacating Kandil
The former PKK members also said members of the group, designated as terrorist by Turkey, the US and the EU, were vacating camps in northern Iraq due to fear of a possible incursion into the area by Turkish troops.
“In the last few days the rumors of a cross-border operation has triggered fear within the [the PKK]. All the camps have been emptied,” one of the former PKK members said at the press conference.
The four, one of them a woman, handed themselves over to Turkish authorities this weekend after escaping from a PKK camp in northern Iraq, the Anatolia news agency said.