Turk PM asserts right to
intervene in Iraq, raps US
01/12/07 -- (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on
Friday reaffirmed Turkey's right to send troops into
Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels there and chided U.S.
officials for questioning it.
"The Turkish Republic will do whatever is necessary to
combat the terrorists when the time comes, but it will
not announce its plans in advance," Erdogan told a news
conference after a meeting of his ruling AK Party.
"We say we are ready to take concrete steps with the
Iraqi government and we also say these steps must be
In sharp language underscoring Turkish anxiety about the
chaos in Iraq, Erdogan said it was wrong for Washington
-- "our supposed strategic ally" -- to tell Turkey, with
its historic and cultural ties in the region, to stay
out of Iraq.
"We have a 350 km border with Iraq. We have historic
relations ... the United States is 10,000 km away from
Iraq, and yet is it not intervening in Iraq's internal
affairs?" he said.
Turkish media say Erdogan has been irked by comments
attributed to Washington's envoy to Baghdad, Zalmay
Khalilzad, warning third countries not to interfere in
Ankara has long complained that the United States and
Iraqi government have failed to crack down on Kurdish
rebels, and periodically asserts its right under
international law to conduct cross-border operations
against the guerrillas.
With both presidential and parliamentary elections
looming in 2007, analysts say Erdogan is under increased
pressure to show he is tough on security issues.
More than 30,000 people have been killed since the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), branded a "terrorist
organisation" by the EU and the U.S. as well as Ankara,
launched an armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in
southeast Turkey in 1984.
The PKK began a unilateral ceasefire on Oct. 1 at the
request of its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, but Turkey
dismissed the move as a public relations ploy and
clashes have continued, though at a lower intensity than
Up to 5,000 militants are believed to be hiding in the
mountains of northern Iraq from where they have staged
attacks on military and civilian targets inside Turkey.
Washington has appointed a special envoy to coordinate
measures with Turkey aimed at tackling the PKK, but
analysts say it will not apply military force against
the group, given the scale of the problems it faces in
the rest of Iraq.
"We don't want to waste time with abstract statements,
we want concrete results," said Erdogan, who has said
the Iraq situation is now a bigger foreign policy
priority for Turkey even than its bid to join the
Ankara's biggest nightmare is a violent breakup of Iraq
and the emergence of a Kurdish state in the north that
could in turn foment separatism among Turkey's own