New opportunity
 
Murat Ozcelik, Turkey's special representative for Iraq, said: "This operation [the cross-border offensive] was a message on how determined we are to stop the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] from using northern Iraq as a safe haven."

Ozcelik said that the Iraqi government had acknowledged the threat that the PKK posed to Turkey.

He said: "This gives us an opportunity to re-focus on diplomacy in 2008."

Gul had invited Talabani to visit on February 21, hours after Turkish forces stormed into northern Iraq to crack down on PKK camps.

However, Ankara has warned it will continue to pursue its operations against the PKK, both at home and in northern Iraq.

The Turkish parliament authorised cross-border military action against the PKK fighters for a period of one year in October, paving the way for a ground offensive.

This was preceded by five bombing raids on PKK targets in northern Iraq.

Washington had also backed the Turkish operations by supplying its ally with intelligence on PKK movements.

Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the previous Turkish president, had refused to invite Talabani to Ankara despite flourishing trade ties.