Turkish FM: Turkey’s cross-border incursion will not spell invasion

thumbnail.jpeg Foreign Minister Ali Babacan made clear in a strongly worded statement on Thursday that Turkey does not have any intention of harming Iraq’s territorial integrity via a possible cross-border incursion to tackle outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq since Turkey’s sole target would specifically be the PKK members based there.  

“Here the target is in no way Iraq, not the Iraqi people, not Iraq’s territory, not Iraq’s natural resources. The target is solely the terrorists and the terrorist organization,” Babacan told reporters at a press conference yesterday. 

The foreign minister also slammed the use of the word “invasion” by the international media, which he characterized as an attempt to present the problem stemming from the PKK presence in Iraq as a bilateral problem between Turkey and Iraq. 

“They use the word ‘invasion’ in relation to a possible cross-border operation by us deliberately,” Babacan said and reiterated that “any cross-border attack would be aimed at hitting terrorist bases and would not be an invasion.” After a recent surge in PKK attacks in southeastern Anatolia, the government asked Parliament for authorization to hit the PKK bases in northern Iraq. Parliament gave the go-ahead earlier this month. 

The Turkish minister, meanwhile, questioned the sincerity of the Iraqi Kurdish regional leadership based in northern Iraq concerning their willingness to contribute to Ankara’s efforts against the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by a large majority of the international community. 

“We have doubts about the sincerity of the administration in northern Iraq in the struggle against the terrorist organization. We want to see solid steps — we hope our points of contact understand the seriousness of this job,” Babacan said, while noting that specific sanctions would be used to induce cooperation against the PKK. 

He also made clear that Turkey did not want to hurt either the Iraqi or Turkish people with economic measures. “We have many options on the table against the PKK right now,” Babacan said and added that some of those options are already being used. 

Turkish officials have been talking tough rhetoric and demanding action against the PKK, with concerns that a cross-border campaign by its troops would spread disorder in one of the few relatively stable areas in Iraq. Such a campaign by Turkey would also put the US, a key NATO ally, in an awkward position with both the Baghdad government and the self-governing Iraqi Kurds in the north. Washington has pressed Turkey for restraint while urging Iraqi Kurds to crack down on the PKK bases, from which the PKK has launched hit-and-run raids into Turkey that, since Sept. 29, have left 47 people dead, including 35 Turkish soldiers, according to government and media reports. 

Babacan also dismissed concerns that a row over the safe haven the PKK enjoys in northern Iraq would hijack the agenda of a multinational conference in Ä°stanbul on Iraq’s security. 

“Our attitudes on Iraq in general and on the terrorist organization are two separate issues,” Babacan said, when reminded of remarks by Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who said on Wednesday that he did not want this weekend’s conference of Iraq’s neighbors in Ä°stanbul to be “hijacked by the current tension over the PKK’s terrorist activities in Turkey.” 

The talks in Ä°stanbul on Friday evening and Saturday will aim at boosting efforts “for bringing stability and peace to the whole of Iraq,” Babacan said. “We have no intention of turning this meeting into a meeting on the struggle against the PKK,” a senior Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Thursday. 

A joint declaration to be adopted in Ä°stanbul is expected to call on Iraq, its neighbors and the international community to step up efforts against “all terrorist activities targeting Iraq and emanating from Iraq,” he added. 

The Ä°stanbul meeting brings together the foreign ministers of Iraq’s neighbors, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the Group of Eight nations. It will be the second such gathering to discuss the overall crisis in Iraq after a May meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. 

 

TZ, Ankara

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