Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Power stations agreed on in Turkish-Iraqi talks but not security

(AINA) - Turkey and Iraq were locked in talks on Tuesday to try to resolve their differences over alleged terrorist bases near their joint border. The talks were the centre point of a visit to Ankara by Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, that was dominated by security and trade issues. Turkey has long maintained that militants from the PKK Kurdish separatist organisation hide out in the Kandil mountains in northern Iraq and launch attacks from there into Turkish territory. Ankara has been pressing Baghdad and the US to act against the PKK or face an incursion by Turkish troops.
Relations between Turkey and Iraq, and between Turkey and the US, have been badly strained by the issue, and the Turkish military has been agitating in recent months for permission from the government to launch an attack into Iraq to target the bases. Ankara also fears a resurgence of the latent separatism of Turkey's sizeable Kurdish minority.
Turkey strongly opposed the Iraq war. In 2003, the Turkish parliament voted against allowing US troops to open a northern front through Turkey during the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. Since then, anti-US sentiment in Turkey has risen sharply amid dismay at the chaos now gripping Iraq and at what many Turks see as an increased threat of separatism.
The Turkish general staff has deployed about 100,000 troops on the border with Iraq in recent weeks and is restricting the movement of people and goods in parts of three southeastern provinces in its attempt to capture or kill suspected PKK guerrilla fighters. There have been several small-scale incursions into northern Iraq by units of the Turkish armed forces but US opposition and the distractions of a Turkish general election have, thus far, prevented a wider operation.
About 80 members of the Turkish security forces have been killed in PKK attacks this year. The latest casualty came early on Tuesday, when an officer was killed as his vehicle hit a land mine near Yuksekova, not far from the Iraqi border.
Southeastern Turkey is predominantly Kurdish and many people in remote areas support the PKK, which has in the past urged Kurds to secede from Turkey.
Mr Maliki said after arriving in Ankara on Tuesday that "security co-operation is one of the most important issues" on the agenda of his meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister. Their talks lasted longer than planned. No statement had been issued by early evening on the security aspects of their talks. However, Hilmi Guler, Turkey's energy minister, said the two governments had reached an agreement to co-operate in building two power stations -- one in Turkey and one in Iraq -- and to work together on upgrading their electricity links and on oil exploration.

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