Turkey's prime minister says his military is moving forward in drafting plans for sending forces into northern Iraq to clear out Kurdish rebel bases, but added that officials are also holding talks with the United States and Iraq in an attempt to defuse tensions.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Ankara Wednesday that his security forces are proceeding with their work and would take whatever steps are warranted according to their findings.
Erdogan added that his government is in talks with the United States and Iraq regarding the issue.
It is not the first time Turkey has said it is considering sending troops across the border into northern Iraq to act against rebels from the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The rebels are mostly based in the Qandil Mountains where Iraq's border meets Turkey and Iran. Ankara says PKK militants use those mountain bases to launch attacks inside Turkey, and blames the PKK for the deaths of 15 soldiers last week in southeastern Turkey.
The Ankara government has repeatedly pressed the United States to send troops into northern Iraq to take action against the PKK, and Washington's reluctance has at times strained relations between the two allies. The United States has argued that its broader security problems in Iraq prevent the kind of full-scale military crackdown on the rebels that Turkey wants.
The U.S. embassy in Ankara said in a statement Wednesday that, Turkey, like every country, has a right and an obligation to defend itself and its people. But the statement also urged Turkey not to take unilateral action, saying, working together with the United States and the government of Iraq can be an essential part of advancing Turkish security.
In the Kurdistan regional capital of Irbil, government spokesman Khaled Salih told VOA that more than a military solution is needed.
"We believe that solving this Kurdish issue in Turkey is not a military solution, because this a more complicated situation and political considerations must also be incorporated into that kind of a package to find a viable solution for the Kurdish problem in Turkey," he said.
He also reaffirmed the Kurdistan regional government's position.
"No forces should be used from our territory to threaten our neighbors," he added.
The United States and Turkey consider the PKK to be a terrorist group.