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25 April 2006

Rice Urges Turkey To Work with Iraq in Fighting Terror Group

Secretary visits Ankara, urges stability in dealing with cross-border terror

By Vince Crawley
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Turkey to wait until a new Iraqi government is formed in the weeks ahead to address cross-border terrorism by the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has sought refuge in neighboring Iraq.

“The United States was active in helping in the past with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party, a terrorist organization], and we will be active in the future in helping with the PKK,” Rice said April 25 in Ankara, Turkey, holding a joint news conference with Turkey Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul.

“But of course we want anything we do to contribute to the stability in Iraq, not to threaten that stability or to make a difficult situation worse,” Rice said, responding to a reporter’s question about a buildup of Turkish forces near the border with Iraq.

Thousands of Kurdish separatist PKK fighters reportedly have found refuge in ethnically Kurdish northern Iraq, taking advantage of what Gul called “a vacuum of authority,” to train and conduct cross-border attacks against Turkish forces.

Rice, who said the United States was the first country to designate the PKK as a terrorist organization, said there is “a trilateral mechanism to work on this issue and I hope that we can reinvigorate it when there is a new Iraqi government to coordinate actions against the PKK.”

The trilateral mechanism can address regional concerns about the PKK while remaining mindful of the delicate stability of Iraq’s government, she said.

“That is why a cooperative approach on this problem – cooperation between Iraq, Turkey and the coalition – is very important,” Rice said, adding that both the United States and Turkey are “committed to” that cooperation.

“We believe that it is important that we make joint efforts through information sharing and other means to prevent any vacuum from being used as a way to inflict harm here in Turkey,” Rice said.

“International solidarity is important here,” Gul said through an interpreter. Turkey remains concerned that PKK terrorists are “attacking our security forces, and Turkish soldiers are falling martyrs to those attacks,” he said.

Gul said Turkish authorities are “establishing better controls of our borders.  If the Iraqi government establishes its own security forces and controls its own borders” and successfully battles terrorists, he said, then the Turkish armed forces will not have to take any action “because … our job is to protect our own soil.”

Rice thanked Gul for the Turkish government’s efforts in helping Iraq form its first permanent nationwide government.

“We all look forward to working with the government of national unity for an Iraq that is stable, democratic and unified,” she said.

In addition to the PKK, Rice said she and Gul held “extensive discussions about the Middle East, about Iran, about the need for Iran to adhere to the international community’s requirements” that were outlined recently in a presidential statement by the U.N. Security Council.

Turkey has been a strong ally in its strategic location between Europe and the Middle East, she said.

“Turkey is a very good example that there is no conflict between Islam and democracy,” Rice said. “The values of democracy and freedom are very deep here,” she added. “People practice their faith, but they also practice their political freedom.”

A transcript of Rice’s briefing with Gul is on the State Department Web site. 

Rice discussed some of the same issues en route to Europe on April 24, saying “the principal context in which we have to deal with the PKK problem at this point is to make certain that there is a stable security situation in the north and to enlist the new Iraqi Government to work with the Turks and with the United States … and the coalition in dealing with the PKK.  And that's going to be the message to the Turks.” (See related article.)

For more information on U.S. policies, see Response to Terrorism.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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