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Wednesday, October 13, 2010     GET REAL

Tension is the subtext of Turkey-Iraq dialogue
on Kurdish insurgents

ANKARA — In September, the defense ministers of Iraq and Turkey discussed a joint campaign against the Kurdish insurgency (PKK).


The session was coordinated with the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. But observers said the KRG sees Turkey as the main threat. "PKK is a diversion and sometimes a danger because it arouses Turkish anger and invasion" an analyst said.

Officials said KRG President Masoud Barzani agreed to help eliminate the PKK military in the Kandil mountains.

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They said Barzani has been preparing to delineate a corridor to enable Turkish military operations in northern Iraq.

"First, the PKK would be offered a deal to lay down its weapons and be integrated into a regional defense architecture," the official said. "If they refuse, then Turkey could expect Iraqi help in finding and eliminating the terrorists."

Officials said Barzani has established contact with the leadership of the PKK, believed to have about 2,500 fighters in northern Iraq. They said the KRG president urged the Kurdish fighters to surrender their weapons and join the Kurdish security forces on a temporary basis.

Under the offer, PKK operatives who had not been involved in attacks against Ankara would be allowed to cross into southeastern Turkey. Turkey has submitted similar offers in the past.

Officials said Turkey did not believe that the PKK would lay down its weapons. They pointed to a split within the Kurdish insurgency, in which at least one faction has consistently violated proposed ceasefires.

Officials said Iraq has agreed to allow the Turkish military to cross the border to battle the Kurdish Workers Party in the Kandil mountains. They said the agreement would be contingent on a PKK refusal to stop attacks against Turkey in 2010.

"This is a breakthrough, but it could take a few months for the new arrangement to be implemented," an official said.

On Sept. 30, the PKK again announced an extension of its ceasefire with Turkey. PKK leader Murat Karayilan said the latest extension would last a month.

"It is clear that the process will turn into an indefinite ceasefire if mutual confidence-building steps towards peace are taken," Karayilan said. "Otherwise, we will re-evaluate the situation."

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