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Turkish President Makes Historic Visit to Iraq

Turkey's President Abdallah Gul is making the first visit to Iraq by a Turkish head of state in 33 years. Both Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Turkish President Gul were all smiles for the historic occasion.

Mr. Talabani, who is an ethnic Kurd, and whose Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party (PUK) is the smaller of Kurdistan's two major parties, has been mediating between other Kurdish leaders to put an end to the terror activities of the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK), which have long angered Ankara.

The PKK, which has bases in northern Iraq, conducts frequent raids inside Turkey, provoking periodic Turkish cross-border reprisals. The PKK's leader, Abdallah Ocalan, is imprisoned in Turkey and has been sentenced to death on terror charges.

During a joint press conference in Baghdad, Iraqi President Talabani told Turkish President Gul that Iraq would do everything to put a stop to the PKK's military activities, pleading in return for more freedoms for Turkey's own Kurdish minority.

Mr. Talabani, addressing the PKK directly, insisted that it had one of two choices: either to end it is military activities, or to leave Iraqi territory. Mr. Talabani said Iraq's constitution bans armed activities on its soil.

"Any attacks on our democratic neighbor [Turkey] will be considered terrorist attacks and do a disservice to the [Kurdish] people they claim to be representing," he said, "The presence of PKK forces on Iraqi soil has harmed villagers from over 500 Kurdish town and the PKK must either lay down its arms or leave Iraq."

Turkish President Gul told Talabani that he hoped that with the support of Iraqi leaders, especially those from Kurdistan, it would be possible to eliminate the cross-border activities of the PKK.

"It is our belief that within the framework of Iraq's central government, alongside our Kurdish brethren of Iraq's Kurdish regional government we have reached an understanding to put an end, together, to the [terrorist] activities [of the PKK] ...," he said.

The French Press Agency reported that Gul would also be meeting, separately, with the head of the Kurdish regional government, Nechirvan Barzani to discuss how the new accord would be implemented.

Gul is also scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Tuesday, to discuss closer economic ties between Ankara and Baghdad.

The PKK has long been a bone of contention between both sides and prevented economic cooperation. Trade between both countries is approximately $3 billion a year.

Last week, President Talabani visited Istanbul to urge Turkish leaders to approve an amnesty for Kurdish rebels, as well as according more cultural freedom to its own Kurdish minority, as part of the framework of a deal to end the PKK's terror activities.