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Turkey Agrees to Allow US Use of Its Territory for Humanitarian Purposes - 2003-04-02

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that Turkey had agreed to allow the United States to use Turkish territory to re-supply U.S. forces in northern Iraq.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Gul, Mr. Powell praised Turkey for its contribution to the coalition war effort.

"We have solved all of the outstanding issues with respect to providing supplies through Turkey to those units that are doing such a wonderful job in Northern Iraq to keep the situation in northern Iraq stable," Mr. Powell said.

The U.S. secretary of state stressed that Turkish assistance would focus on the provision of humanitarian supplies, food and fuel for coalition forces.

Mr. Gul said the agreement reached with the United States did not require authorization from the Turkish parliament, which early last month rejected a bill allowing the deployment of tens of thousands of U.S. combat forces on Turkish soil. Those forces were set to use Turkey as a staging ground for military operations against Iraqi troops in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

In an interview with VOA, Foreign Minister Gul stressed that no combat materiel would be supplied through Turkey and that Turkish bases would not be used to deliver military supplies. He said the supplies that come through Turkey would be items such as food or fuel and that they all would be purchased in Turkey and delivered by Turkish trucks.

During Wednesday's news conference, Mr. Powell reiterated the U.S. position that there was no need for Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq at this time.

"As we all know, Turkey has been concerned about the potential rush of refugees toward the border, as well as terrorist attacks that might be directed toward Turkey, or an extension of control out of the Kurdish areas toward the south," he said. "In each one of these situations, I think, we have been able to demonstrate to our Turkish friends that we are monitoring the situation closely, we have it under control and therefore, at the moment, there is no need for any movement of Turkish forces across the border."

Kurdish groups controlling northern Iraq are fiercely opposed to Turkish military intervention, saying it would provoke similar intervention from neighboring Iran. In the past, Turkey has threatened to send its troops into northern Iraq to prevent Iraqi Kurds from declaring independence from Baghdad or seizing control of oil fields in the Iraqi provinces of Kirkuk and Mosul.

Turkey also says that Turkish troops could help prevent a mass exodus of Kurdish refugees toward Turkey's borders. Mr. Gul told VOA that he had received assurances from Mr. Powell that U.S. forces would not sanction any such action on the part of the Iraqi Kurds. But the foreign minister added that while Turkey is determined to coordinate its actions in northern Iraq with the United States it still reserves the right to take unilateral action if need be.