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US Defense Secretary Offers Turkey More Help on PKK

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates conducts a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, 05 Feb 2010
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates conducts a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, 05 Feb 2010

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Turkish officials in Ankara Saturday he will look for additional ways the United States can help Turkey deal with Kurdish guerrillas along its border with Iraq.

Secretary Gates says the United States has been helping Turkey since 2007, when Turkish troops moved into Northern Iraq to chase Kurdish PKK guerrillas based there. To avoid further such incidents, then-President George W. Bush, authorized Secretary Gates to begin providing intelligence to Turkish troops to help in their fights against the PKK.

Now, Secretary Gates says he is prepared to try to do more, in part as a follow-up to talks here recently by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno.

"I offered, during my visit here, to, when I return to Washington, to see if there are more capabilities we can share with Turkey, in terms of taking on this threat," he said. "And when General Odierno was here, there was discussion of an action plan going forward. So I think what we're seeing is a further intensification of the cooperation in an effort to deal with this threat."

But Gates also said military action is not the only way to deal with the Kurdish separatists. He said he is working with the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq to try to convince leaders there to put pressure on the PKK to stop its attacks on Turkey. He also said that, as in any counterinsurgency, killing all the guerrillas is not necessarily the way to win, and he welcomed the effort to determine whether it might be possible to convince some PKK fighters to lay down their weapons.

"Trying to identify those in the PKK who are prepared to rejoin society and abandon violence, and to reach out to them is a very positive thing," said Gates. "And it helps to try to separate those who are willing to abandon violence and become part of society from the hard core who will not abandon violence and have to be dealt with in other ways."

That is what the United States has done in Iraq and is trying to do in Afghanistan.