U.S. reassures Turkey over control of oil-rich Kirkuk

Special to World
Saturday, April 12, 2003

ANKARA Turkey has decided to send a small military team to monitor the coalition entry into the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Turkish officials said Ankara aims to ensure that Kurdish fighters do not remain in control of the city, which is located amid the vast northern Iraqi oil fields. The fields are said to contain 40 percent of Iraq's oil wealth and Kurdish fighters have joined U.S. special operations forces to capture the city.

The Turkish deployment of monitors was discussed and approved by the United States, officials said. They said Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who assured his Turkish counterpart that Kurdish forces would withdraw from Kirkuk after its capture.

"We've accepted this," Gul said.

In Washington, a new report asserts that Ankara's relations with the United States could be determined by their cooperation in northern Iraq. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the United States requires Turkey's help to preserve Iraq's sovereignty.

The report, authored by Bulent Ali Riza and Seda Ciftci, cited Turkey's hesitancy to help Washington and called for a review and redefinition of Turkish-U.S. strategic relations. The center said Ankara, despite tensions over Iraq, remains vital to U.S. interests in the Islamic world.

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