Officials of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party said a motion allowing Turkish forces to conduct a cross border operation into Iraq could be ready for a voting in the Parliament by next week while the Bush administration says such a measure will create more complications and that border security concerns can be better addressed by working with the government in Baghdad. Meanwhile, NATO remains silent.
AK Party Deputy Parliamentary Group Chairman Sadullah Ergin said on Thursday that the motion on cross-border military operation may be submitted to the parliament after the Ramadan Feast.
Ergin said preparations for the motion were completed but it will not be submitted to the parliament on Thursday.
He said a motion to dispatch Turkish troops abroad may be sent to the parliament on October 15, following a meeting of cabinet.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under domestic pressure to act against PKK militants whose attacks have killed 15 Turkish soldiers since Sunday.
Some Turkish lawmakers say they are following the example of President Bush, who often says U.S. troops are fighting terrorists inside Iraq so they do not have to fight them at home.
While the United States considers the PKK a terrorist group, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the president does not support unilateral Turkish military action in Iraq.
"We have said that we want to work with the Turkish government and the Iraqi government to eradicate the terrorist problem there in northern Iraq," she said. "We do not think that it would be the best place for troops to go into Iraq from Turkey at this time. We think that we can handle this situation without that being necessary."
The U.S. State Department says PKK violence not only threatens Turkey, but undermines the security and welfare of Iraq as well.
Turkey is a crucial ally in America's fight against terrorism. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. military is heavily dependent on the NATO ally when it comes to re-supplying more than 100,000 American troops in Iraq.
"About 70 percent of all air cargo going into Iraq goes through Turkey," he said. "About one-third of the fuel that they consume goes through Turkey or comes from Turkey."
Turkish forces launched a major offensive against the PKK this week in a southeastern province near the Iraqi border. Ankara holds the PKK responsible for the deaths of 30,000 people since 1984.
Meanwhile NATO's top military commander declined Wednesday to say whether NATO would support Turkish military action in northern Iraq.
"That's a political decision; I will leave that to the North Atlantic Council," Gen. Bantz Craddock said.
Craddock acknowledged that the PKK is using northern Iraq as a safe haven to launch attacks in Turkey. He also called Turkey a valued ally in NATO and noted that a good deal of supplies to Iraq flow through Turkey.
"So we've got some responsibilities: one, to make sure that that line of communication is still viable, and we do that, again, with our security cooperation folks that are in Turkey; and then, secondly, I think from a NATO perspective, we want to sustain the strong partnership on our southeastern border there with Turkey, which we have valued for years," Craddock said.
Asked if he could influence Turkey's dealings with Iraq, Craddock said: "I won't say in terms of Iraq. I will say that I talk with my counterparts - military leaders - in Turkey frequently and we discuss issues about their border, and I'll leave it at that."