Tuesday, June 5, 2007
The EU Troika questions Turkey over the recent military buildup on the border facing Iraq, while Foreign Minister Gül says the buildup amounts to routine measures aimed at securing the border, and underlines there is no political decision on a military incursion to root out PKK camps in northern Iraq
ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
Turkey on Monday said it reserved the right to act against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq, despite strong warnings by the United States, the European Union and Iraqi Kurdish groups.
“I have told them clearly that we have every right to take any measures against terrorist activities directed at us [from northern Iraq],” Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül told a press conference yesterday after a meeting with European Union officials.
Gül's remarks came amid increasing tension in the country over a possible military incursion into northern Iraq to crack down on the PKK bases there. The foreign minister said he informed EU officials of the ongoing attacks by the PKK against Turkey's security forces
On northern Iraq, Gül said he told EU officials that Turkey attached due importance to Iraq's political unity and territorial integrity and that the country had no hidden agenda but had the right to take measures if terrorist attacks targeted the country.
Diplomatic sources, speaking to the Turkish Daily News, said Gül conveyed Turkey's strong concerns over the increasing attacks by the PKK infiltrating into the country from northern Iraq to the EU side.
Asked about the military buildup on the border near Iraq, Gül told the EU that it amounted to routine measures aimed at securing the border and underlined that the government has not made a political decision to carry out a military operation into northern Iraq, said the same sources.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country currently holds the EU term presidency said he “did not get an impression that Turkey will carry out a cross-border operation,” into northern Iraq.
Commenting on the possible impacts of a military incursion on Turkish-EU ties, Steinmeier said European Union was closely following recent discussions taking place in Turkey, adding that the EU Troika raised the issue at yesterday's meeting.
“We asked the Turkish side about its position on the issue. Gül told us Turkey had to protect its people in the face of terrorist activities… But clearly, I did not get an impression from what Gül said that a cross-border operation will be carried out,” said Steinmeier.
Turkey has been building up its military forces on the Iraqi border in recent weeks, amid debates over whether to launch a military incursion to root out PKK terrorists, who stage raids in southeastern Turkey after crossing over from their hideouts in northern Iraq's mountains.
The EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, meanwhile, extended support to Turkey's fight against terrorism. The EU Troika meeting took place at the State Guest House in Ankara, which is very close to the Anafartalar shopping mall that was bombed last month. Officials in Turkey point the finger at the PKK for the deadly terrorist attack. The members of the EU Troika condemned the blast.
Call for more support from the UN
Turkey is preparing to take initiative at the United Nations level for more cooperation in the fight against the PKK in a couple of days, the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday.
News reports said Ankara will deliver a report to the U.N. spelling out its concerns about the PKK and reaffirming its legal right to take action against the terrorist organization. It was not definite yet in what form Turkey would convey its request, ministry sources told the TDN.
Turkey's permanent representative to the U.N. Baki İlkin will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week, briefing him on recent PKK attacks against Turkey, as well as explosives and weapons proved to be coming into Turkey from northern Iraq, stated news reports yesterday.
İlkin will remind Ban of the relevant U.N. resolutions, Iraq's responsibilities and Turkey's rights stemming from international law. A similar initiative was taken at NATO level last week.
Turkey insists it has the right under international law to send troops into Iraq in self defense if need be. Parliament must approve any such action and the government has said no plans are currently under consideration.
On Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Turkey against using military force against the PKK in Iraq. Iraq's prime minister also urged Ankara over the weekend to tone down its threats of military intervention.