Turkish president warns "patience" running out with Iraq

Türkiye Materials 26 October 2007 09:04

(AFP) - Turkey is losing "patience" with Baghdad over Kurd separatists in northern Iraq, President Abdullah Gul said Thursday, ahead of talks with an Iraqi delegation seeking to avert a Turkish strike against the rebels.

"We respect the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq, (but) we are running out of patience and we will not tolerate the use of Iraqi soil for terrorist activities," Gul told a gathering here of 12 Black Sea countries.

"We are fully determined to take all necessary steps to end this threat," he said.

Last week, the Turkish parliament authorised the government to order a military incursion into northern Iraq against mountain bases used by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Press reports Thursday spoke of stepped up military activity in southeast Turkey where the outlawed PKK has been fighting for self-rule since 1984.

Turkish troops near Yesilova deployed tanks and artillery to repulse an attack Wednesday night by PKK rebels on a military outpost flush on the border with Iraq, newspapers reported.

The reports could not be officially confirmed.

The accounts put the number of PKK fighters at between 40 and 100. Most newspapers said 30 rebels were killed.

Turkish F-16 fighter jets from the Diyarbakir air base that shelled PKK positions along the Iraqi border on Wednesday also hit targets inside Iraq, newspapers said, but again there was no immediate confirmation.

With tensions high on the ground, a seven-member Iraqi delegation was expected in Ankara at 5:00pm (1400 GMT), for talks aimed at avoiding a full-scale Turkish incursion.

Turkish officials gave no details regarding where and at what level the talks would be held, but Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said after a one-day visit to Baghdad on Tuesday that Turkey expected strong action from the Iraqis.

"I told Baghdad that the delegation must come with concrete proposals, that the visit would be futile otherwise," Babacan said. "We need more than just words."

Turkish university students protest against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party

©AFPTurkey accuses Iraq and the United States of failing to crack down on the PKK rebels using bases in northern Iraq as a springboard for cross-border raids against the Turkish military.

The PKK ambushed a military patrol on Sunday, killing 12 Turkish soldiers and taking eight prisoners. The incident increased public pressure on the Turkish government to order a military response.

As reports came of Turkey massing more troops and equipment near the Iraqi border, Turkey's National Security Council recommended to the government after a meeting Wednesday night to impose economic sanctions on Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.

The influential advisory panel of senior government ministers and army brass recommended "economic measures against the Kurds who support, directly or indirectly, the separatist organisation".

Normally, the government follows the council's recommendations.

Turkey supplies Iraq -- and the Kurdish region in particular -- with much of its power, water and food.

Turkey is Iraq's largest trading partner, and media reports Thursday said Ankara, not wanting to hurt economic ties with the rest of the country, planned to divert its main land transport routes from the Habur border post with Iraq to posts on the Syrian border to bypass the Kurdish Iraqi region.