Tension rises on Turkey-Iraq border

Turkish MPs expected to vote on bill allowing cross-border military action.

Turkey says Kurdish fighters used bases in Iraq to launch attacks that killed 15 soldiers last week [EPA]
Turkey says Kurdish fighters used bases in Iraq to launch attacks that killed 15 soldiers last week [EPA]

“The shelling began on Saturday night around 10pm [1900 GMT],”  an Iraqi officer told the AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It carried on sporadically,” he said, adding that the shells had struck empty areas without causing any casualties.

Residents of Dashta Takh near the Turkish border told Al Jazeera of a low intensity, but regular shelling campaign around their village.

“There is often shelling, sometimes we can’t sleep at night,” one resident said. “Whenever they want, they hit.”

Tough resistance

Murat Karayilan, head of the armed wing of the PKK, told the Associated Press on Saturday that Turkey could expect to meet tough resistance if its forces crossed the border.

“Iraq’s Kurds will not support the Turkish army,” he said.

“If Turkey starts its attack, we will swing the Turkish public opinion by political, civil and military struggle.”

The PKK, which is labelled as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, began an independence struggle in  Turkey in 1984 that has left more than 37,000 people dead.
Ilter Turan, professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, told Al Jazeera said there was no question that the bill would be passed but said it did not mean that Turkish troops would immediately cross the border.

“I think the decision for the government to receive authorisation to stage military interventions is intended, first of all, to demonstrate how serious they are about asking the Iraqi government to control terrorist activity in its own territory,” he said.

Restraint urged

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, urged Turkey to refrain from any major military operation during telephone calls with Turkey’s president, prime minister and foreign minister on Friday.

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US officials said last week there are about 60,000 Turkish troops along the country’s southern border with Iraq, but the US military has not seen activity to suggest an imminent offensive.

Rice said she told the Turkish officials “that we all have an interest in a stable Iraq and that anything that is destabilising is going to be to the detriment of both of our interests.”

But Washington’s influence over Ankara could have been diminished by a US congressional resolution that branded the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks after 1915 as genocide.

Ankara has long complained that Washington has not done enough on its own or through the Iraqi government to crack down on the PKK.

Turkey and Iraq last month signed an accord pledging to combat the group, but failed to agree on a clause allowing Turkish troops to carry out  in  “hot pursuit” operations against rebels fleeing into Iraqi territory, as they did regularly in the 1990s.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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