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Top Turkish General Says Turkey, Iran Coordinating on Strikes Against Kurds


A senior Turkish general says Turkey and Iran have carried out coordinated strikes against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq. Over the past few months, Turkey has reportedly intensified its attacks against bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

The deputy head of Turkey's armed forces General Ilker Basbug told Turkish television that Turkish forces have collaborated with Iran in attacking bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party in northern Iraq, and will do so again if necessary.

In the past, Turkey and Iran have pledged to cooperate against the rebels, but the general's comment is the first confirmation that the two countries have been working together against the PKK, and PJAK, the group's Iranian wing.

International relations expert, Soli Ozel of Bilgi University says the cooperation is a watershed in Turkey's fight against the PKK.

"Turkey bombed PJAK that is the anti Iranian Kurdish organization and it flew into the region using Iranian airspace," he said. "That tells you volumes what is cooking about PKK PJAK because PJAK is the twin of PKK for Iran."

During Turkey's more than two-decade fight against the PKK, Ankara frequently accused Tehran of providing direct assistance to the PKK, a claim denied by the Iranians. But the present Turkish government has been working hard to improve relations with Iran. Observers say closer cooperation between the two countries will be a blow to the PKK.

Turkish armed forces are continuing to bombard Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq, while its continuing its diplomatic efforts to isolate them. The head of Turkey's armed forces, General Yasar Buyukanit, on Thursday called for an end to logistical support to the rebels.

"In the past the PKK were supplied by mules carrying arms," he said. "Today they are supplied by trucks. How can this be? All counties should recognize they are a terrorist organization."

That call, according to observers, is directly aimed at the leaders of the Iraqi Kurdish-controlled enclave, where PKK bases are located. Like Iran in the past, Ankara has accused the Iraqi Kurds of supporting the PKK.

But here too, the last few months have seen relations improving. The prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdish region Nechirvan Barzani this week said they were optimistic that relations with Turkey are improving. The warming of relations, says Bilgi University's Soli Ozel, is an indication of how isolated the PKK has become.

"The PKK, for all intents and purposes, has well lived out of its usefulness, for anyone concerned and everyone want to get rid of them, and this is what is happening," he said.

But the PKK insurgency is still essentially a Turkish problem, with Turkish Kurds still make up the overwhelming majority. Despite the PKK being designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union, pressure still remains on Ankara to extend greater cultural and economic rights to its Kurdish population, as a key part of the strategy to defeat the insurgency.

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