( AFP ) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday she would ask Turkey not to destabilise northern Iraq by launching a cross-border military strike against Kurdish rebels there.
"Anything that would destabilise the North of Iraq is not going to be in Turkey's interest," Rice said before a stopover in Ireland on her way to Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders and to attend a ministerial conference of Iraq's neighbours and major Western powers in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday.
"It is not going to be in our interest. It is not going to be in Iraq's interest. So that has been the reason for urging restraint," she told journalists on her plane.
Rice is to meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on Friday afternoon.
"The first point that we have to underscore is that Turkey, the United States and Iraq have a common enemy in the PKK," she said, referring to the Kurdish rebel movement.
Turkey accuses the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq of harbouring and aiding fighters from the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Both Baghdad and Washington strongly oppose any unilateral Turkish action in northern Iraq on the grounds that it would destabilise the only relatively calm region of the war-torn country.
The PKK uses bases in the mountainous region for cross-border attacks as part of its 23-year campaign for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.
"We want to develop a very effective strategy for dealing with this threat," said Rice. "But we are not going to be able to do this without coordination of the three."
She said that the three-party panel she set up more than a year ago to help ease tensions between Turkey and Iraq had been "enhanced", implicitly acknowledging that it had been ineffective.
"So effective action means action that can deal with the threat but is not going to make the situation worse," she said.
Rice said she asked Iraqi Kurd leader Massud Barzani in a telephone conversation last week to distance himself from the PKK.
"I made the very clear point that the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) needs to separate istelf from the PKK in a very clear rhetorical way and he assured me that they have no intention of harboring the PKK, no intention of trying to do anything but rule out terrorism in North Iraq."
Turkey has reportedly massed up to 100,000 troops on the border with Iraq and has threatened a military incursion to strike at the PKK bases unless Baghdad and Washington make good on promises to crack down on the rebels.
The White House has offered Ankara "actionable intelligence" on the PKK.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived in Ankara on Thursday night to meet Turkish counterpart Babacan, one day after Baghdad appealed for Tehran's help to defuse the crisis.
Rice, Mottaki, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are all scheduled to attend the ministerial conference of Iraq's neighbours and major Western powers in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday.
"I know that the Iraqis have some ideas that they are bringing to the table. I hope we can, with the Turks, help to sort those out, to marry those ideas with the appropriate assets that we and others might be able to bring," said Rice.
"We have no time to lose. All instruments -- diplomatic, political, socio-cultural and military -- are on the table," Babacan said, adding that Ankara might opt to restrict flights to northern Iraq.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is also to meet with US President George W. Bush in Washington on Monday.
Ankara on Thursday stepped up pressure on Kurdish rebels with economic sanctions.
Turkish troops have been engaged in major operations targeting the PKK since October 21 when a group of rebels, who Ankara says infiltrated from northern Iraq, ambushed a military unit, killing 12 soldiers and capturing eight.
The army says it has since killed 80 rebels on Turkish territory.
A top PKK commander on Thursday called on Ankara to present a peace plan that could end the group's rebellion, which has claimed more than 37,000 lives since it began in 1984.
Ankara categorically refuses to have any contact with or make any concessions to the PKK. Turkey, along with the United States and much of the international community, lists the group as a terrorist organisation.