Talabani: Fight against PKK needs time
Wext: Friday, 10.September. @ 00:00:00 CEST Foto : Jalal Talabani
09 / 09 / 2004 — Ankara has told Iraqi Kurdish leaders running northern Iraq that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a terrorist group holed up in mountains of the region, should be combated by local groups, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
"We have explained the importance that we attach to local groups' not supporting PKK/Kongra-Gel," ministry spokesman Namik Tan told a weekly press conference.
In what seems to be a response to the Foreign Ministry, Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said in remarks to the media that the Iraqi people needed time to effectively fight against the PKK, probably referring to deficiencies in post-war Iraq's handling of security challenges.
A few thousand armed militants of the PKK, which also goes by the names KADEK and Kongra-Gel, are based in northern Iraq. Ankara has been pressing the United States to take action to eliminate the group, but Washington has so far remained inactive, frustrating Turkish leaders.
Talabani and Nechirvan Barzani, a senior official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), arrived in Ankara this week for talks with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
Barzani has told Turkish leaders that the PKK was deemed to be a hostile element by the KDP, sources said. He met with Foreign Minister Gul on Tuesday and was scheduled to depart for Iraq yesterday.
Talabani, who met with Gul yesterday, said in an interview with private NTV television that the PKK was divided into two rival factions, one led by the group's imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan's brother Osman.
He said Osman Ocalan was constantly moving the group from one place to another within Iraq in an effort to escape from attacks carried out by the PKK.
According to the PUK leader's account, some 1,500-2,000 armed terrorists of the PKK were still inside northern Iraq. An unknown number of PKK members is believed to have infiltrated Turkish territory after the group ended a unilateral five-year cease-fire in June. PKK attacks on Turkish targets in the Southeast have increased since then.
Talabani said a general amnesty for the group would be the best way to stop attacks.
Escorts for Turkish drivers
The two leaders' visit came at a time when Turkish workers operating in Iraq are facing a serious security threat stemming from abductions and attacks. Close to 30 Turks have been killed in Iraq in attacks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said recently.
Talabani said the PUK could help Turkey engage in safe trade with Iraq by providing Turkish drivers with escorts on their trips to Baghdad. But he said this could only be possible if Turkish drivers agreed to change their current route from one passing through Mosul to another that would cross through Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk.
Both PUK forces and Iraqi security forces would contribute to these escorts, he told reporters upon his arrival in Ankara on Tuesday.
Kirkuk, new border gate
Tan said Ankara has also reiterated its position that the new administration in Iraq should be a full democracy giving a fair share to all Iraqis, a reference to Turkey's concerns over what it sees insufficient representation of Iraqi Turkmens, who enjoy close ethnic ties with Turkey, in the Iraqi administration.
Turkmens also complain of pressure at the hands of Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.
"The two Iraqi Kurdish officials have said they were aware of Turkey's sensitivities and will act accordingly," Tan said.
Responding to a question on plans to open a new border gate with Iraq, Tan said Ankara was discussing the issue with the Iraqi administration and added that it expected the regional groups to use their political influence to achieve progress on the planned opening of the gate, as increased trade would be in their favor as well.