US Tries to Stop Turk Incursion in Iraq
(Associated Press) The United States has opened a "diplomatic full court press" to keep Turkey from invading northern Iraq, an incursion that could further destabilize Iraq and the region.
President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials implored Turkish and Iraqi leaders to work together to counter the threat from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), U.S. officials said Monday as Turkish troops headed toward the border and tensions soared.
Bush spoke by phone to Turkish President Abdullah Gul and by secure videoconference to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to urge the two governments to work together to deal with the group after a weekend ambush by rebel Kurds killed 12 Turkish soldiers and left eight missing, the White House said.
To Gul, Bush "expressed his deep concern about the recent attacks by PKK terrorists against Turkish soldiers and civilians," spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "The president reaffirmed our commitment to work with Turkey and Iraq to combat PKK terrorists operating out of northern Iraq (and) told President Gul that the United States will continue to urge the Iraqis to take action against the PKK."
Bush and al-Maliki, meanwhile, "agreed to work together, in cooperation with the Turkish Government, to prevent the PKK from using any part of Iraqi territory to plan or carry out terrorist attacks," Johndroe said. "The prime minister agreed with President Bush that Turkey should have no doubt about our mutual commitment to end all terrorist activity from Iraqi soil."
The U.S. designates the PKK as a terrorist organization.
"I don't want to speculate about specifically what we might do, but this is an issue of deep concern to the United States," Rice told reporters Monday night.
The Pentagon has said 60,000 Turkish soldiers have deployed along the border. The north is one of the few relatively calm Iraqi regions, and the U.S. fears an incursion by its ally Turkey could worsen the Iraq war.
After weeks of stepped-up clashes between Turkish troops and rebels, tensions rose even higher after the guerrilla ambush Sunday. The Turkish army said 34 rebels died in a counterattack.
In addition to Bush's conversations, Rice called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the leader of Iraq's Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, on Sunday to press the U.S. case for restraint from Turkey and action from Iraq against the Kurdish militants, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.