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Iraq's Vice President Visits Turkey to Discuss Border Tensions


With Turkey threatening to launch a military incursion against Kurdish separatist bases of the Kurdish workers party in Northern Iraq, Ankara is at the center of intense diplomatic activity. Iraq's vice president and the Syrian president are the visiting the Turkish capital for talks. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

Turkey is in the center of intense diplomatic activity, with the visits of Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. The visits come as Turkish forces continue to mass on the Iraqi border. Ankara is threatening to launch a large military incursion against bases of the Kurdish workers party - the PKK - in Northern Iraq.

In the last two weeks, Turkey has blamed the PKK staging a series of attacks that have killed 30 soldiers and civilians. Monday, the Turkish government agreed to send a motion to parliament to sanction a cross-border operation. According to analysts, Turkish threats are causing deep concern among Turkey's neighbors. Government spokesman Cemil Cicek on Monday sought to downplay the concerns.

He says the motion targets only the PKK and is designed to prevent further bloodshed.

The Tuesday visit of Iraq's vice president and Syria president is being interpreted as an attempt by Ankara to prepare the diplomatic ground for a possible attack. Turkey and Syria have been regional rivals for decades and any military incursion by Turkish forces into Iraq would be viewed by Damascus with deep suspicion.

Baghdad is calling on Ankara to hold off an attack, to give it time to deal with the PKK. International pressure on Turkey not to intervene continues to grow. Washington has repeatedly called on Ankara to work with Iraqi authorities. In the last week, two high-level American diplomats visited Ankara to lobby against an intervention.

However, the Turkish government is under intense domestic pressure to act.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar says any intervention would have wider objectives than just the PKK.

"The background of this affair is the uneasiness of the Turkish establishment including Akp, (The ruling party) visa vis what is happening in northern Iraq. This is the real issue, because there is a sort of new state emerging," Aktar said.

Ankara fears any such Kurdish independent state could lead to similar demands from its own Kurdish population. Relations between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurdish political leadership have deteriorated in the last year, despite Kurdish denials of any plans to declare an independent state.

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