No Iraq-Turkey pact on separatists

Iraqi PM pledges to crack down on Kurdish fighters but refuses to sign formal pact.

    Al-Maliki, left, was caught off guard by Erdogan's request to sign the counter-terrorism pact [AFP]

    "Efforts will be channelled to bring this to an end and disarm the PKK as a step towards forcing them out of Iraqi soil."

     

    Erdogan went further: "We have reached an agreement to spend all efforts to end the presence of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK in Iraq."

     

    Limited power

     

    But al-Maliki knows he needs the support of the Kurds of Iraq, and that is why he could not commit to more in Ankara.

     

    Al Jazeera exclusive

    Watch Hoda Abdel-Hamid's report from Erbil in Iraq

    He refused to sign the counter-terrorism agreement requested by the Turkish authorities, saying it was not in his power to commit Baghdad to the agreement without first putting it before parliament and his cabinet, an Iraqi government official said.

     

    Iraq's Kurds form a substantial part of the country's parliament.

     

    The Turkish and Iraqi interior ministries had been negotiating such a pact, but an Iraqi government official said al-Maliki was caught off guard when asked to sign it on Tuesday.

     

    "Al-Maliki offered to sign a memorandum [of understanding] instead, saying that fell within his powers… He told the Turks that signing this agreement would impose commitments that Iraqis might not be able to carry out," the official said on condition of anonymity.

     

    Turkish officials also said they knew al-Maliki had little clout in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and that he had been weakened by Iraq's dire security situation and fresh turmoil in his government.

     

    But Erdogan tried to sound hopeful.

     

    "Within a short period of time, a large delegation under the leadership of the [Iraqi] interior minister, will visit. Security officials will come together and seal an agreement," he said.

     

    Military threat

     

    Turkey has threatened to stage an incursion into northern Iraq unless Iraq or the US cracks down on the separatist group.

     

    The US says the PKK is a terrorist group, but US forces are consumed by chaos elsewhere in Iraq, and want to preserve the Kurdish-dominated north as a rare spot of relative stability.

     

    Turkey has been carrying out small scale shelling of PKK positions inside Iraq, but in recent months the military has sent thousands of troops to its southern border and warned of a large-scale incursion.

     

    Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from the Kurdish region of Erbil in Iraq, said most people there did not believe an invasion would actually happen, but would back the PKK against what they see as an oppressive regime, if it did.

     

    There is also suspicion that the real reason behind the threats has to do with not wanting an autonomous Kurdish region just across its border.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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