EU enlargement chief urges Turkey to stick to law

( Reuters ) - The European Union official managing negotiations over Turkey's EU accession bid has urged Turkey and Iraq to cooperate in efforts to crack down on Kurdish guerrillas and stay within the boundaries of international law.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn declined in an interview with EU Web site EurActive to comment on how the European Commission would view a possible cross-border incursion by Turkish forces. But he appealed for a peaceful approach.

"We continue to urge Turkey and Iraq to tackle this problem through cooperation between the relevant authorities and by respecting international law," Rehn told the Web site.

He added: " Turkey faces continual cross-border terrorist attacks from the PKK ( Kurdistan Workers Party rebels), which is on the EU list of terrorist organisations. The Commission understands Turkey's need to protect its citizens."

The EU Presidency urged Turkey on Monday to refrain from what it called "any disproportionate military action".

Rehn is due in coming weeks to publish the Commission's regular report on Turkey's progress in accession negotiations begun in October 2005 and since held back by a trade dispute with EU member Cyprus.

Rehn declined to comment on the content of the report but said the most urgently needed reform continued to be moves to allow freedom of expression, and in particular a decision to repeal Article 301 of its penal code making it an offence to "insult Turkish identity".

"Among all the reforms, freedom of expression is the first and foremost priority, since it underpins the functioning of an open, democratic and self-confident society," Rehn said.

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