Ankara (AFP)–Turkey said Wednesday that the United States had begun to share intelligence on Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, and reaffirmed its readiness for cross-border military strikes if necessary.
Last week, US President George W. Bush pledged to provide Turkey with real-time intelligence to strike at bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington.
"All orders given after the meeting between Erdogan and Bush have begun to be implemented," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as telling the parliamentary budget committee.
"It is very important that the intelligence is real time and actionable," he added, without giving further details.
Turkey has massed an estimated 100,000 troops on the border as it threatens cross-border strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq, which it says the Kurds use as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets.
Pressure for Turkish military action against the PKK bases increased after October 21, when Kurds ambushed a Turkish military unit near the Iraqi border, killing 12 troops, injuring 17 and capturing eight.
On Tuesday, four other soldiers were killed in fresh fighting near the border, triggering a wave of public anger.
Babacan said his government was still striving for a diplomatic solution but warned that Turkey would not shrink from using the parliamentary authorization obtained last month to send troops across the border to hunt down the PKK.
Turkish media reported Tuesday that Turkish warplanes had bombed three villages frequented by PKK members near the border town of Zakho in pre-dawn raids, but Turkey’s air force denied the reports.
"Turkish air force planes have not engaged in any action across the border," Air Force chief, General Aydogan Babaoglu, was quoted by Anatolia as saying during a visit to northern Cyprus.
"There was no such thing. These reports are completely baseless," he said.
Jamal Abdallah, a spokesman for the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, also denied that any air attacks had had taken place.
"Yesterday evening Turkish planes dropped flares on border areas near Zakho. We do not know the reason why they dropped flares. There was no air strike or bombing. But an abandoned police outpost was shelled," Abdallah told AFP.
More than 37,000 people have died since the PKK took up arms 1984 to fight for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
Turkey says it is left with no option but military action because Iraq and the United States have not done enough to curb PKK activities.
Both Washington and Baghdad oppose any large-scale Turkish military action in northern Iraq, fearing that it could destabilize the only relatively calm part of the war-torn country.