Friday, October 12, 2007


Petraeus concerned over tension with Turkey

(AP) -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq warned Thursday that Turkey's threatened incursion into Kurdish regions in the north of the country could harm the flow of supplies for U.S. troops and damage the Kurdish economy. Iraqi Kurdistan, a haven of relative calm, could suddenly become another fault line if Turkey makes good on threats to cross the northern border in pursuit of Turkish Kurdish militants.
"We are concerned about that," Gen. David Petraeus told two U.S. reporters in a dusty courtyard in Jadidah, a Shiite town about 25 miles north of Baghdad. The Turkish government is preparing to ask parliament to authorize a cross-border operation. Approval would allow the military to launch an operation immediately or wait to see if the United States and its Iraqi allies decide to crack down on the rebels.
"A lot our supplies come through Turkey. ... To maintain that commercial exchange is hugely important through the border crossing at Habur Gate. And we hope that will continue," Petraeus said. A Turkish incursion could open an delicate new front in Iraq just as U.S. forces were seeing major gains against both Shiite and Sunni extremists in the largely Arab sections of the county south of the Kurdish region.
Beyond that, about 70 percent of U.S. air cargo headed for Iraq transits Turkey, as does about one-third of the fuel used by the U.S. military in Iraq. U.S. bases also get water and other supplies by land from Turkish truckers who cross into the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraq's Kurdish region also is heavily dependent on trade with Turkey, which provides the region with electricity and oil products. Annual trade at Habur gate, the main border crossing, is more than $10 billion.
Petraeus said the United States, which lists the PKK as a terrorist organization, understood Ankara's concerns about the activities of the militant group. "The violence that has been undertaken by the PKK is an enormous challenge. It's really a strategic issue. So we are again very understanding of the concern they (the Turks) have over these terrorists who are up in the very, very high mountains that straddle the border there," Petraeus said
On Thursday, Turkey ordered its ambassador in Washington to return to Turkey for consultations, an extreme sign of diplomatic displeasure.

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