Direct talks rejected

 

The Turkish parliament gave permission to the military on Wednesday to launch an incursion into northern Iraq to pursue rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), although Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, indicated that no such action was imminent.

 

"Kurdistan is not responsible for the war between Turkey and the PKK ... and we have not supported the war or the violence"

Massoud Barzani, Kurdish regional president

Barzani said that Iraqi Kurds were not to blame for the trouble between Turkey and the rebels, who Turkey has blamed for the recent deaths of dozens of soldiers and civilians.

 

He also reiterated a call for Ankara to hold negotiations with the Kurdish authorities.

 

"We are astonished by this tension during the past few days and the Turkish stance in crossing Kurdistan's borders under the pretext of striking at the PKK," said the statement from Barzani.

 

"Kurdistan is not responsible for the war between Turkey and the PKK, after all, and we have not supported the war or the violence and bloodletting or been dragged into this war."

 

A senior Turkish official, however, rejected direct talks to defuse the crisis and said Ankara would instead deal with the central government in Baghdad.

 

Cemil Cicek, the deputy prime minister, told the English-language Zaman newspaper: "We don't talk to Iraqi Kurdish groups. Our interlocutor is the Iraqi government in Baghdad, and we discuss whatever we want to discuss with its representatives."

 

Gates said the US was determined to work with the Turks to reduce the PKK threat and said Washington and Baghdad were prepared to do the "appropriate thing" if necessary.

 

He did not specify what that implied.

 

Call to leave

 

Turkey's PM has called for the PKK's
camps to be closed [AFP]
On Friday Erdogan called for the PKK's camps to be shut and its leaders arrested.

 

"What will satisfy us is the closure of all PKK [rebel] camps, including their training facilities, and the handover of the terrorist leaders to us," he said.

 

Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, has already urged PKK fighters to leave the region as soon as possible in order to prevent the area being shelled by the Turkish military.

 

Turkey says the PKK enjoys free movement in northern Iraq and is tolerated or even actively supported by Iraqi Kurdish leaders, something they strongly deny.

 

The PKK movement has been fighting for an independent Kurdistan since 1984. An estimated 37,000 people have died in the conflict.

 

The PKK is described as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the European Union.