Iran to Work with Turkey to Counter Kurdish Rebels

A031190617.jpgThere has been a flurry of diplomatic activity involving Tehran, Baghdad, Ankara and Washington to defuse tensions along the border between Turkey and northern Iraq. After hosting Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan in Tehran last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was in Turkey on Thursday for a fresh round of talks. On Saturday, Mr. Mottaki visited Istanbul to participate in an international conference on Iraq.

Apart from Turkey’s neighbors, the permanent representatives of the UN Security Council, members of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference are participating in the meeting.

Iran has expressed its readiness to work together with Turkey to counter the rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The PKK poses a common problem for both Turkey and Iran. PKK’s sister organization, Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK) has been mounting cross border raids against Iran from its strongholds in the Kandil mountains.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, ahead of conference on Saturday of Turkey’s neighbors on Iraq, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Reza Bageri said that cooperation with Turkey on PKK could also include a military component.

Asked whether cooperation should include military efforts, Mr. Bageri said, “All kind of cooperation is possible.” With Iran stepping up consultations with Turkey, the United States has also added momentum to its diplomacy with Ankara. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in the Turkish capital on Friday and held talks on the PKK crisis with Mr. Babacan.

According to Turkish media reports, talks were focused on three main issues. First, the United States said it would part with more “actionable” intelligence that would help Turkey target the PKK. Second, Washington favored a “comprehensive” settlement of the PKK issue that included the involvement of the Iraqi government and as well as the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), headquartered in Arbil in northern Iraq.

Third, Turkey should continue to exercise restraint. Accompanied by Ergin Saygun, the Turkish Deputy Chief of General Staff, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is heading for Washington for crucial talks with US President George Bush on Monday.
Analysts point out that Monday’s talks will go a long way in deciding whether Turkey would exercise the military option vis-à-vis PKK and the possibility of establishing a long-term relationship with Iran.

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