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US Urges Turkey to Limit Iraq Incursion


The United States Friday called on Turkey to limit the scope of its ground incursion in northern Iraq and bring it to an early conclusion. The operation is apparently the biggest of several recent Turkish military strikes against Kurdish PKK rebels. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The United States agrees with Turkey that the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, is a terrorist organization. But it is calling on the Ankara government to limit its latest military drive against the Kurdish group out of concern for the broader security situation in Iraq.

Reflecting the depth of U.S. concern about the incursion, said to involve thousands of Turkish troops, spokesmen for the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department all made statements calling on Turkey to limit the scope of its operation.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson voiced concern directly to authorities in Ankara.

"Our strong counsel to the Turkish government is to conclude, as quickly as possible, these operations, to limit them strictly and solely to PKK targets, and to work directly with the Iraqi government - this includes the Kurdish Regional Government, on any long-term solution to the threat of the PKK," he said. "Everybody agrees - we, the Turkish government and others - that the PKK is a terrorist organization and a threat that needs to be dealt with."

The United States has recently stepped up intelligence cooperation with Turkey over the PKK, which has staged several lethal attacks into Turkey in recent months from mountain camps in northern Iraq.

McCormack, however, said Turkey planned and executed the current operation on its own. At the White House, spokesman Scott Stanzel said the United States was notified in advance of the Turkish action and said he understood Iraqi authorities were informed as well.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast region for more than 20 years and PKK-related violence is believed to have killed more than 30,000 people since 1984.

The United States is concerned that a prolonged and large-scale Turkish move into Iraq could lead to broader fighting with Kurdish groups and upset the relative stability of northern Iraq.

Turkey has accused mainstream Iraqi Kurdish groups of turning a blind eye to PKK activities in the region. Spokesman McCormack said while more work needs to be done, the approach to the problem by Iraqi authorities, including Kurdish regional leaders, is becoming more coherent.