Turkey-Iraq talks on PKK 'fail'

Tensions rise as Ankara rejects Iraqi proposal to ease the cross-border conflict.

    The Turkish public support a cross-border incursion [Reuters]

    Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has threatened to order an incursion into northern Iraq against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), after talks with Iraq aimed at avoiding a cross-border raid, had reportedly failed.

    "The moment an operation is needed, we will take that step," he told a crowd in the town of Izmit on Saturday.

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    "We don't need to ask anyone's permission."

    Turkish-Iraqi talks collapsed on Friday after Ankara rejected proposals from Abdel Qader Jassim, the Iraqi defence minister, for tackling Kurdish fighters.

    Turkey said the measures would take too long to implement and repeated calls for "urgent and determined" action against the PKK.

    The Iraqi delegation left on Saturday

    Iraq's proposals included coalition forces watching over the border and the creation of more and reinforced military outposts along the frontier to prevent infiltration by PKK fighters.
     
    The government in Baghdad also suggested direct talks between the Turkish, Iraqi and US military and the revival of a tripartite panel to coordinate the fight against the PKK.
     
    The solution to the problem "must in any case be political and diplomatic," the Iraqis said.

    Rising tension

    Meanwhile, Turkish newspapers have reported that the army was deploying more forces along the border, with F-16 fighter jets ready for  "orders to strike".
      

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    Erdogan had said that the country was in a "constant state of alert" and warned that "those who support terrorists and  even those who turn a blind eye to them, are partners in crime".
      
    "They share the responsibility for bloodshed and killings," he said.


    On Friday, Erdogan signalled that any action it took might be put off until after he met George Bush, the US president, on November 5.

    "What may or may not happen until [my] trip to  America, I cannot say - we are now in a constant state of alert."
      
    Before the talks, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, is to visit Ankara on November 1.

    Tensions have risen since the Turkish parliament had given authorisation for a military operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq.

    More than 60 PKK fighters are said to have been killed in clashes since last Sunday in an ambush on a military patrol along the border left 12 soldiers dead.

    Eight troops were captured.
     
    According to the Firat news agency, Murat Karayilan, a PKK commander, said that the release of the captive soldiers "will not take long".
      
    He said: "We are open to discuss the issue with delegations that may come" to negotiate their release."  

    The PKK has said the soldiers are held inside Turkish territory.

    Iran visit
     

    The prime minister says the country is
    'on alert' [AFP]
    Ali Babacan, the Turkish foreign minister, was scheduled to fly to Iran on Saturday to discuss the border crisis.

    According to Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee in Istanbul, it is a move that may be designed to put pressure on the US.
     
    He said: "The last thing the US or Iraq would want would be a joint operation between Turkey and Iran." 
     
    In comments unlikely to ease Turkish frustration, the top US military commander in northern Iraq said he plans to do "absolutely nothing" to counter Kurdish rebels operating from the region.
     
    Major General Benjamin Mixon said it was not the US military's responsibility to act.
     
    Mixon also said that he has sent no additional US troops to the area and that it not tracking hiding places or logistics activities of PKK rebels.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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