ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will deliver a report to the United Nations this week spelling out its concerns about Kurds in Iraq and reaffirming its legal right to take action against them, an official said on Monday.
The news comes as Turkey reinforces its troops along the border with Iraq and the powerful army General Staff stresses its readiness for a cross-border operation to crush guerrillas of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
"Diplomacy first," said Monday’s Sabah newspaper headline, saying the UN move prepared the legal and diplomatic ground for the possible military operation, which has already sparked alarm in the United States, Turkey’s NATO ally.
The Foreign Ministry official told Reuters Turkey’s permanent UN representative, Baki Ilkin, would hold talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week.
"The terrorism incidents will be explained. A report will be presented concerning the explosives and weapons we have determined are coming (into Turkey) from northern Iraq," the official said.
"More cooperation from the United Nations is requested on this matter," he added. The official declined to comment on the possibility of military action in northern Iraq.
Ankara has long urged US and Iraqi government forces to crack down on an estimated 4,000 PKK guerrillas who use the mountains of northern Iraq as a springboard to attack military and civilian targets inside Turkey.
But US troops, battling an Arab insurgency in central and southern Iraq, are reluctant to intervene in the relatively peaceful, mainly Kurdish north of the country.
Turkey insists it has the right under international law to send troops into Iraq in self-defense if need be. Parliament must approve any such action and the government has said no plans are currently under consideration.
Parliament went into recess on Sunday ahead of July 22 elections, though the government could recall it at any time if it decided to send troops into Iraq.
On Sunday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Turkey against using military force against the PKK in Iraq. Iraq’s prime minister also urged Ankara over the weekend to tone down its threats of military intervention.
The Iraq situation has fuelled a strong rise in nationalism and anti-American sentiment in Turkey ahead of the elections.
Border tensions increased over the weekend as Kurdistan Patriotic Unity (KYB) forces stopped a team of Turkish special forces in northern Iraq.
Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Yapar Buyukanyt, hinted on Thursday at potential combat with Barzani’s forces in northern Iraq if Turkish troops cross the border. Troop movemen’s on Turkey’s southeastern border have prompted speculation of a possible incursion into Iraq’s largely autonomous northern Kurdish region.
"We would prefer that we continue to work through this problem with them to try and safeguard Turkey, and hope that there will not be unilateral military action across the border into Iraq," Gates on Sunday told a news briefing at an Asian security conference in Singapore.
"The Turks have a genuine concern about Kurdish terrorism," Gates said.
"We have been working with the Turks to try and help them get control of this problem on Turkish soil." Asked whether US pressure for a non-military response was being heeded in Ankara, Gates said: "We have had ongoing discussions with Turkish officials."
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Saturday, speaking to reporters on board a flight to Madrid, noted that any conflict at the border would not help to secure stability in Iraq. Rice also said Turkey and the United States are in close contact to solve the complex situation.
Another commentary about a possible Turkish incursion came from Baghdad on Saturday. Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Turkey not to send its troops into northern Iraq, urging Ankara to tone down its threats of military intervention.
"If there are problems we shouldn’t resort to threats, force and weapons because this worsens the problems," Maliki said at a news conference with Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani in Arbil. "We do not want to harm neighboring countries, but we also do not want neighboring countries to interfere with military raids," he said.
Barzani also urged Turkey to tone down its threats of military intervention. "I hope it is internal rhetoric and they are not considering solving their problems through war, because war never resolved anyone’s problems," he said.
An incident occurred on Friday in Sulaimaniya between a team of Turkish special forces and the KYB’s local Peshmerga forces, sparking new tension in the region. Armed Peshmerga forces stopped the Turkish team and asked them for identification documen’s. The incident ended without casualties.
However, the Turkish military demanded Iraqi Kurdish groups not repeat such episodes in the future, hinting that an armed conflict could take place. The Turkish Foreign Ministry corresponded with the US Ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, and asked him to urge Kurdish groups in northern Iraq not to play games any longer, daily Hurriyet reported yesterday. "These are dangerous games," the daily quoted a high-level official. "Tell them to be intelligent."
On the other hand, the KYB officials on Saturday said that as Turkish forces were in civil attire, the Peshmerga forces could not identify them.
KYB’s Ankara Representative, Bahruz Galali, apologized to Turkish officials for the episode and said they will take measures not to repeat such occurrences.
Turkish troops shelled a border area in northern Iraq early Sunday in an attack on the PKK based in the region, Belgium-based Fyrat news agency reported. The report could not immediately be confirmed. Citing the terrorist PKK, Fyrat news agency said Turkish artillery targeted the Hakurk area in northern Iraq and that no casualties were reported. The PKK have long had camps in the area, which is 15 kilometers from the Turkish border.