GUL DETERMINED TO FIGHT THE PKK IN NORTHERN IRAQ – has the support of Syria’s President Assad

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THE Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Wednesday that his country is determined to fight against ‘PKK terrorists’ operating out of northern Iraq.

He urged the Baghdad government to fulfil its international responsibilities on the fight against terror.

Gul said: ‘Iraq should not be allowed to turn into a base for terrorist activities and Turkey is committed to fight against the PKK’s terrorist activities stemming from inside Iraq.

He was speaking at a luncheon given in the honour of visiting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria also has a large Kurdish minority.

Gul’s remarks came just hours before the Turkish parliament began debating and voted in favour of a government request to receive authorisation to send in troops into the north of Iraq to hunt down members of the terrorist organisation PKK which uses the area as a base to stage attacks inside Turkey.

Syrian President Assad said earlier in the day that his country backed Turkey’s stance over PKK terror.

‘Without a doubt, we support the decisions taken by the Turkish government against terrorism and we consider these decisions to be a legitimate right of Turkey,’ Assad said.

The Speaker of the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament has meanwhile said that Turkey’s main target was the Kurdistan Region.

Speaker Adnan Mufti made the comment following a parliament session on a possible Turkish military incursion into the Kurdistan Region.

He said: ‘The Turkish threats are not new, but they are much more intense now.

‘If the Turkish army were to carry out an attack, it would harm the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi government as well as democracy and stability in the area, while we have engaged in a long struggle to establish a federal and democratic Iraq,’ the Speaker said.

Mufti added: ‘The Kurdistan Region respects the UN and international conventions on good neighbourliness and mutual interests.

‘We are not a part in the crisis that Turkey has fallen into with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The party has been in existence for more than 20 years and the crisis will not come to an end by simply attacking the Kurdistan Region.’

He said: ‘We accept the territorial integrity of Turkey and respect it. Would not a violation to the borders of other countries escalate the crisis even further?

‘Some say that the attack would be carried out in pursuit of terrorists and PKK gunmen, but Turkey’s main target is the Kurdistan Region.

‘Hence, they are unjust in their decision and have no right to decide on the fate of a different nation living outside their territories.

‘Such an attack would have greater and catastrophic consequences.

‘For the Kurdistan Region border guards are currently given the responsibility for protecting electricity and oil pipelines and countering terrorists outside the Kurdistan Region. In such circumstances, during an attack these forces will be tasked with a greater duty – that is defending the homeland.

‘Iraqi insurgents will then be able to seize the sources of energy, a move that will put them in a stronger position.

‘This would have dire consequences on the existing opportunity for coexistence among the Iraqi constituents.’

It has emerged that France is ready to consider a role as mediator between Iraq, and Turkey.

At a press conference given by Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, after talks in Paris, Kouchner said France had not been asked to fulfil such a role but would be ready to examine such a proposal if it were to be made.

The French foreign minister also said Paris was opposed to ‘any intervention in the region’ and hoped that ‘the current disagreement between Turkey and Iraq will be resolved by peaceful means’.

Talabani responded by saying that he did ‘not think that there are signs of a Turkish attack on the horizon’.

The Iraqi president added that the Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had assured the Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi ‘that they have no intention of launching a large-scale military operation against Iraq’.

Talabani also expressed the hope that ‘France will help to ensure that the neighbours won’t intervene in our internal affairs’.

Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, during his visit to Paris on Wednesday, spoke of ‘direct contacts’ between the authorities of his country and the French oil group, Total.

‘In the sphere of oil and trade relations, there has in fact been progress – direct contacts are taking place between the Iraqi oil ministry and Total,’ he said at a news conference.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner simply noted that Total, which had previously been very active in Iraq, had ‘very longstanding’ contacts in the country.

‘We would like companies, and not just oil companies, to resume, expand and initiate business with Iraq, but we are simply drawing attention to the conditions of security,’ he said, alluding to the climate of violence and the abductions of foreigners in the country.

Total managing director Christophe de Margerie, said on 10 October last that ‘we are keeping our contacts in order to achieve progress’, in Iraq.

Total is not, however, launching any projects in the country because ‘there is a basic problem in terms of the lack of security’, he added, on the sidelines of a conference on oil.

‘If we were to forge ahead in Iraq when we are sometimes suspending our production in Nigeria’ for the same reasons connected to security problems ‘people would not understand our thinking’ he explained.

Jalal Talabani called for tripartite talks between the US, Iraq and Turkey to resolve the Kurdish problem.

In separate comments the French Foreign Minister said that France was opposed to military action and he also noted that his country had not been called upon to mediate into the dispute between Turkey and Iraq over the presence over PKK guerrillas in the border regions!

Talabani also noted that Iraq did not have the military capability to fight the PKK in the mountain region bordering Turkey, as it needed its forces for security elsewhere.

He added that Iraq hopes the problem will be resolved peacefully but he also warned that the Iraqi government ‘refuses the presence of foreign forces on its soil.’

Commenting on other issues, the Iraqi leader reiterated his position in support of national reconciliation and the unity and independence of Iraq and remarked that the federal system could also help promote a unified Iraq as it had in countries like the United States and United Arab Emirates.

‘We support national reconciliation with forces that believe in a federal democratic united and independent Iraq’, he said.

During his visit Talabani met with President Nicolas Sarkozy for discussions on regional developments and the preparation for a conference on Iraq to be held on November 2nd and 3rd in Istanbul, where Iraq’s neighbours are due to discuss a variety of issues including border security, refugees and resources.

France has confirmed it will send an observer to the Istanbul conference and both sides vowed on Wednesday to further promote bilateral relations in a number of spheres although there has been hesitant progress in this area.

After his visit here, Talabani expressed satisfaction with his meetings and said he was happy that Sarkozy had understood the position of Iraq and had expressed support for his country in a number of areas.