ANKARA Ñ Turkey has agreed to a deal with the United States that
would exchange Ankara's troop deployment in Iraq for the elimination of a
Kurdish insurgency group.
Turkish officials said Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok has based his
agreement to send at least 3,000 troops to Iraq on a U.S. pledge to destroy
the Kurdish Workers Party, also known as the PKK or Kadek. The officials
said Ankara expects the United States to either operate against PKK
insurgents in northern Iraq or allow Turkey's military to do so.
"Turkey is clearly the most important country capable of contributing to
peace and stability in the region," a Turkish military source said. "But
Turkey's support depends entirely upon how the PKK issue is resolved between
Ankara and Washington. The United States should surrender PKK militants to
Turkey along with their weapons."
Both the military as well as the government of Prime Minister Recep
Erdogan have approved the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. Ozkok said
the military would be ready to send troops to Iraq within 45 days of a
On Wednesday, Erdogan and Ozkok met to discuss the U.S. request. The two
men agreed to send a Turkish military delegation to Iraq in August to meet
U.S. Central Command officials.
Officials said Turkey expects the U.S. military to launch an offensive
against an estimated 5,000 PKK insurgents in northern Iraq. They said
Washington has been pressed to extradite PKK fugitives as well as confiscate
In return, officials said, Turkey will send at least 3,000 troops to the
Sunni Triangle for a peacekeeping operation. The troops will be located
north of Baghdad and near Tikrit, both strongholds of deposed President
Turkey has also agreed to pass legislation that would provide amnesty or
reduced sentences for Kurdish insurgents who surrender to Turkey. The
legislation has been approved by the government and parliament.
The Turkish offer to Washington was relayed by Foreign Minister Abdullah
Gul during his visit to Washington last week. Gul met Secretary of State
Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom were eager
to obtain Ankara's approval for military deployment in Iraq.
The officials said the United States has agreed to Turkey's offer. They
said they expect the United States to approve a deadline for PKK surrender
before any military offensive.
In an unrelated development, Turkey announced that it would stage a
joint search and rescue naval exercise with Israel and the United States.
The exercise, termed Mermaid, would take place on Aug. 13 in the eastern