Turkey PM hopes invasion of north Iraq will be unnecessary
( RIA Novosti ) - Turkey's prime minister said on Tuesday he hoped a cross-border military operation against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq would not be necessary.
The Turkish government asked parliament Monday to authorize military operations against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has stepped up attacks on Turkey from the north of Iraq. Lawmakers plan to debate the issue on Wednesday.
Speaking on television on Tuesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he "sincerely hopes that the motion will not be applied. Passage of this motion does not mean an immediate invasion. The operation will be conducted in the right time."
The premier said earlier the government wanted parliamentary approval for the operation to remain in force for a year, so the army could "tackle problems as they arise."
Turkey has been amassing troops near Iraq, and shelling suspected rebel positions along the border. Erdogan said on television earlier that the proposed operation would aim to clear the region of PKK fighters, who currently number about 3,500. The party has been fighting for autonomy status in southeast Turkey for nearly 25 years. The conflict has claimed about 40,000 lives.
Erdogan said cross-border operations would not be aimed against civilians or Iraqi authorities.
Iraq has protested against Turkish military actions on its territory, calling them "aggression." Iraqi Deputy President Tareq al-Hashemi arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for talks.
Washington has urged Turkey, a major NATO member, whose logistical support is crucial for the U.S. in its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, against the military invasion.
Russian lawmakers passed an appeal to the Turkish parliament on Tuesday calling on it to show "wisdom and restraint," and warning about possible negative consequences of a trans-border military campaign.
The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said an incursion into northern Iraq would further destabilize the war-torn region, and added that terrorist threats should be tackled by the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition in the Middle East nation.