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US Urges Turkish-Iraqi Cooperation on PKK


The United States is appealing to Turkey and Iraq to work together against terrorism following recent attacks in Turkey attributed to the Iraq-based Kurdish extremist group, the PKK. The Turkish government says it has approved all necessary measures, including a possible incursion into Iraq to deal with the issue. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The prospect of a large-scale Turkish incursion into the relatively-peaceful Kurdish region of northern Iraq is an alarming scenario for the Bush administration.

Officials here are renewing calls for the Turkish and Iraqi governments to work cooperatively against the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, following attacks attributed to the group in the past few days that have killed 15 Turkish soldiers and a number of civilians.

The United States considers the Kurdistan Workers Party to be a terrorist organization and the State Department issued a statement late Monday condemning the latest attack - saying PKK violence not only threatens Turkey, but undermines the security and welfare of Iraq.

In a talk with reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said cooperation between Iraq and Turkey on the issue is an urgent need:

"It is critically important that all sides involved in this, the Iraqis, the Turks - and certainly we will do our part - work to combat terrorism," McCormack said. "You just cannot have these kinds of attacks emanating from Iraq, and I think the Iraqis understand that. And I cannot say whether or not that particular attack yesterday emanated from Iraq. I cannot say that. But it is a source of deep concern clearly for the Turks, clearly for the Iraqis and for us as well."

As to the Turkish government's warning about an incursion into Iraq, McCormack said sovereign states make their own decisions about how to best defend themselves. But he said the United States has long counseled restraint and cooperation and he is not sure unilateral incursions are the way to resolve the matter.

A senior diplomat who spoke to reporters here said there may already have been incidents in which small numbers of Turkish troops have entered Iraqi territory in pursuit of PKK members, and that what the United States is most concerned about is the prospect of a large-scale incursion involving armor and massed units.

Monday's U.S. statement called on Iraqi authorities to take effective measures against the PKK, and said that the United States stands ready in every appropriate way to support efforts by Turkey and Iraq to protect their citizens and stop terrorist violence.

In a reflection of the importance it attaches to the issue, the Bush administration in 2006 named retired U.S. Air Force General Joseph Ralston, a former supreme commander of NATO, as a special envoy for countering the PKK.

Spokesman McCormack confirmed reports that Ralston has submitted a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but would not address questions about the reasons for his departure from the unpaid position.

He said he did not know if Ralston would be replaced.