Erdogan Seeks `Concrete' U.S. Steps Against PKK

Türkiye Materials 31 October 2007 01:25 (UTC +04:00)

(Bloomberg) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will ask President George W. Bush to take immediate and ``concrete steps'' against Kurdish militants sheltering in northern Iraq when the leaders meet next week.

The U.S. response to Turkish demands to crack down on the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, will determine ``the fate of our future relations,'' Erdogan told his party's lawmakers in a televised speech at the parliament in Ankara today. Bush and Erdogan are due to meet Nov. 5 at the White House.

Turkish helicopter gunships attacked suspected PKK positions within Turkey, close to the Iraqi border, in battles that have lasted more than a week and killed more than 50 people. The NATO member is threatening a military incursion over the frontier to attack the PKK unless the U.S. and Iraq arrest the group's leaders and shut down its camps.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.

The Turkish government will send troops into northern Iraq only when diplomatic options have been exhausted, Erdogan said. Turkey will decide on military action ``when appropriate,'' he added. More than 80,000 Turkish soldiers are currently deployed along the 400-kilometer border with Iraq.

Seeking to avert a Turkish incursion, northern Iraq's Kurdish administration said it will work with the U.S. and Baghdad to ``adopt a corrective approach to protect the borders and prevent any use of these areas for activities against our neighbors,'' according to a statement published on its Web site.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Turkey's capital of Ankara on Nov. 2 for talks on how the U.S. might work with Turkey to combat the PKK. The Bush administration is already providing intelligence to help Turkey pinpoint PKK fighters entering Turkey from Iraq. The U.S. and Iraq must also arrest the group's leaders and disband its military camps, Turkey says.

In their meeting next week, Bush will talk to Erdogan about ``exercising restraint, limiting actions against PKK,'' and ``making sure that they continue to have that dialogue with the Iraqis, because ultimately the neighbors need to work together to make sure that they solve this problem,'' White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. ``We understand that the Turks feel that they want to protect their people.''

Perino noted that eight Turkish soldiers are missing after a deadly attack by PKK fighters this month. Turkey has ``a right to look for them,'' she said.

Three Turkish soldiers died in fighting yesterday in the mountains of Silopi province, less than 20 kilometers ( 12 miles) from the Iraqi border, Hurriyet newspaper reported, citing unidentified security officials.