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 Turkey should leave Iraqi Kurdistan 'as quickly as possible': Bush

 Source :  AFP | Agencies | CQ Transcripts Wire
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Turkey should leave Iraqi Kurdistan 'as quickly as possible': Bush  29.2.2008

February 29, 2008

WASHINGTON, -- US President George W. Bush said Turkey's incursion into Kurdistan region in 'northern Iraq' should be limited and temporary, and urged the Turks to wrap up the operation "as quickly as possible."

Bush told a news conference that he agreed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates "who said the incursion should be limited and should be temporary in nature."

"The Turks need to move quickly, achieve their objective and then get out... as quickly as possible," he said.

Gates had pressed Thursday in meetings with Turkish leaders in Ankara for a quick end to the week-old offensive by Turkish troops against Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in Kurdistan 'northern Iraq'.        

U.S. President George W. Bush J. Photo:White House

But Turkey's Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul and army chief Yasar Buyukanit offered no timetable for a pullout in their talks with Gates, insisting Turkey would "remain in northern Iraq as long as necessary" and would wipe out PKK hideouts before withdrawing.

The US defense secretary, however, said on a flight back to Washington Thursday that he thought the Turks had "got the message" to wrap up their incursion in Iraqi Kurdistan quickly.

"In the sessions that we had, there was no specific mention of a date. I think they got our message, though," Gates said.

Even as Gates met with the Turks Thursday, Turkish warplanes bombed PKK positions in Kurdistan region 'northern Iraq' and intensive fighting was reported on the ground near a major rebel base in the Zap area, Iraqi security sources said.

Part of Bush News Conference

QUESTION: Mr. President, Turkey's ground offensive in northern Iraq is now a week old with no end in sight.

QUESTION: How quickly would you like to see Turkey end its offensive -- its incursion? And do you have any concerns about the possibility of protracted presence in northern Iraq causing further destabilization in the region?

BUSH: A couple of points on that. One, the Turks, the Americans and the Iraqis, including the Iraqi Kurds, share a common enemy in the PKK.

And, secondly, it's in nobody's interest that there be safe haven for people who are -- have the willingness to kill innocent people.

Second point I want to make to you is that there is a special forces presence in northern Iraq, in Kurdistan now, apart from what you're referring to. So there is a presence. And there has been a presence for a while.

Thirdly, I strongly agree with the sentiments of Secretary Gates, who said that the incursion must be limited and must be temporary in nature.

BUSH: In other words, it shouldn't be long lasting.

The Turks need to, you know, move, move quickly, achieve their objective and get out.

QUESTION: But how quickly, sir, do they need to move out?

BUSH: You know, as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Days or weeks?

BUSH: Well, as possible.

Thousands of Turkish troops, backed by tanks, attack helicopters and warplanes, crossed into Kurdistan region in northern Iraq on February 21 in an operation which Ankara said was aimed at Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas and their bases.

Iraqi Kurdistan politician says, Turkey is using Turkey's Kurdish separatist PKK rebel group (Kurdish freedom fighters) as an excuse to invade Kurdistan region 'Iraq' to prevent the establishment of Kurdistan state in the Kurdish autonomous region in 'northern Iraq', Turkey fears this could fan separatism among its own large Kurdish population in southeast Turkey.

Turkey has never, and still does not, recognize the Iraqi Kurdistan region government (KRG) and refuses to meet with its representatives in any official capacity.
That reflects Ankara's fear that any international respect shown to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region would only embolden Turkey's own large Kurdish minority to seek similar home-rule status.

Analysts believe the Turkish raids inside Iraqi Kurdistan region had a secondary purpose of discouraging a referendum on Kirkuk city. Ankara fears that if the oil-rich Kirkuk joins Kurdistan, the Kurds will have the economic foundation they need for an independent state.

Since 1984 the PKK took up arms for self-rule in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,
the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by the U.S. and the EU.

Information for this report was provided AFP | Agencies | CQ Transcripts Wire

** Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and education in the Kurdish language, but critics say the measures do not go far enough.

The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously rejected due to its alleged political implications by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast Turkey.

Others estimate over 40 million Kurds live in Big Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia), which covers an area as big as France, about half of all Kurds which estimate to 20 million live in Turkey.

Turkey is home to over 25 million ethnic Kurds, a large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK for a Kurdish homeland in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media. The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003

The Kurdish flag flown officially in Iraqi Kurdistan but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag is banned in Iran, Syria, and Turkey where flying it is a criminal offence" 

Southeastern Turkey: North Kurdistan ( Kurdistan-Turkey) wikipedia  


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