Iraqis try to defuse tension with Turkey
( AP ) - A high-level Iraqi delegation met with Turkish officials Friday to try to defuse tensions over Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq.
Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi and Minister of State for National Security Sherwan al-Waili met with the Turkish foreign and interior ministers Friday morning.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said after returning from a trip to Baghdad that he was expecting the Iraqis "to come with concrete proposals - otherwise, the visit will have no meaning." Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
Turkish officials have been frustrated by the failure of both U.S. forces in Iraq and Iraqi forces to stop the Kurdish attacks, which have claimed 42 lives in Turkey this month alone. If they do not act soon, Turkey says it will stage a unilateral cross-border incursion.
The Turkish Parliament authorized the government last week to send its troops into northern Iraq to hit bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym, PKK.
Washington is opposed to a unilateral military move by its NATO ally, fearing it would destabilize Iraq's north.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that the U.S. desire to preserve the north's relative stability would not hinder Turkey's fight against the Kurdish rebels.
"They might wish that we do not carry out a cross-border offensive, but we make the decision on what we have to do," Erdogan said during a visit to Romania. "We have taken necessary steps in this struggle so far, and now we are forced to take this step and we will take it."
Two Iraqi Kurdish officials were among the visiting Iraqis, but local Turkish media said Kurdish officials were not included in Friday morning's meetings.
The PKK is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. Its 23-year fight for autonomy in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast has claimed tens of thousands of lives.