( NYTimes ) - The United States has begun to share real-time intelligence with Turkey to assist in its efforts to track down separatist Kurdish rebels hiding in northern Iraq, Ali Babacan, the Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday.
President Bush, in his meeting with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan early this month, agreed to share intelligence for surgical strikes in combat against the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, in order to avoid a larger-scale invasion by Turkey.
"Following the authorization of President Bush, all units started to act in accordance with a new approach and ordering," Mr. Babacan said, speaking to semiofficial Anatolian Agency.
Speaking of Turkey's past struggles with a lack of real-time intelligence, Mr. Babacan added, "Orders are given to prevent such recurrences. Implementation is important, we will see how implementation goes in the period ahead."
The PKK, seeking autonomy in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast, has recently escalated attacks. Turkey's Parliament responded to these raids in October by approving permission for cross-border operations into Iraq to eliminate the rebels' hideouts.
The United States and Iraq oppose a major Turkish military movement in the region and strongly suggest diplomatic ways to resolve the conflict, while Turkey has been demanding immediate tangible steps by both countries to neutralize the PKK.
The fighting has continued as the various governments have sought a solution. On Tuesday Kurdish rebels killed four soldiers and wounded nine others during clashes in mountainous areas of Sirnak Province in southeastern Turkey. Several news services indicated that Turkish planes attacked empty Iraqi villages during the fighting.
Gen. Aydogan Babaoglu, the Turkish Air Force commander, denied news reports that Turkish fighter jets had engaged in any cross-border operation during those clashes. "I don't know how the press comes up with such news," General Babaoglu said, speaking to the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency in northern Cyprus.
"This news item has been appearing almost in every television network since yesterday afternoon. I was on duty at that time, and not a single plane of the Turkish Air Force was engaged in any kind of operation. There's nothing like that. Such news absolutely have no grounds."