Turkey and Iraq have agreed to sign a counterterrorism deal cracking down on separatist Kurdish rebels holed up in bases in northern Iraq, officials said Wednesday.
The agreement would require Turkish forces to seek Iraqi authorization to cross into Iraq for small-scale operations to chase separatist Kurdish rebels, private NTV television reported, citing unnamed Iraqi and Turkish sources.
The agreement was reached during a visit by Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, who arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for talks on Turkish concerns over rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, launching attacks against targets in Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey has long been pressing Iraq for a counterterrorism pact to crack down on the PKK and has threatened to stage a military incursion into northern Iraq to eradicate rebel bases there if U.S. or Iraqi forces failed to take action against the group.
The guerrillas have been fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The PKK is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
Iraqi Interior Ministry Undersecretary Aidn Khald said the sides had reached an agreement on Wednesday and a deal would be signed Thursday. Officials would work on Turkish, Arabic and English versions of the text, he said.
NTV television, citing Iraqi sources, said that under the agreement, Turkey would seek Iraqi authorization for future “hot pursuit” operations â€” cross border military offensives aimed at tracking down and eliminating rebel armed groups that are limited in time, scale and in scope.
But Khald would not confirm that the agreement would allow Turkish troops to engage in hot pursuits. “Everything will become clear tomorrow,” he said.
During a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Ankara in August, Turkey and Iraq agreed to try to root out the rebels. But al-Maliki said the Iraqi parliament would have the final say on efforts to halt the guerrillas’ cross-border attacks into Turkey.
On Tuesday, a soldier was killed and four others were wounded when suspected Kurdish rebels detonated a bomb that was placed inside a van at the entrance of a Turkish military outpost in the southeastern province of Tunceli, the private Dogan news agency reported.
A soldier and four Kurdish rebels also were killed in two days of fighting in the province of Sirnak, near the border with Iraq, according to the agency and the military.