ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey said on Tuesday it would take steps to end the presence of Turkish Kurd rebels in the mountains of northern Iraq–but stopped short of directly threatening military action.
Turkish officials have repeatedly demanded US–Iraqi Kurd–and Iraqi government forces crack down on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces in north Iraq from where rebel leaders direct their fight for Kurdish self-rule in nearby Turkey.
"The principal point which we have stressed at these meetings is that the terrorist presence in northern Iraq must be combated," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a meeting of his parliamentary party.
"So far–Turkey has maintained a patient stance."
But–he said: "Our nation expects us to take effective measures to clean up the terrorist presence in the region. We will take clear and effective steps to bring this about. I remind you we will do what is necessary when the time is right."
In the 1990s–Turkish forces launched repeated raids into northern Iraq to hunt down PKK rebels in the mountainous region. Turkey still keeps several hundred soldiers inside Iraq–close to the Turkish border–despite Iraqi calls for them to leave.
But since the 2003 Iraq war–Turkish troops have not mounted any operations inside Iraq against the PKK which is based on the Qandil Mountain in the far northeast of the country.
US officials admit their troops are too tied up fighting the insurgency in Iraq to turn their attention to the PKK which rarely engages in any hostile activity inside Iraq.