WASHINGTON (Combined Sources)–The White House Wednesday said it had expressed concern to Ankara over the possible escalation of Turkey’s attacks against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside northern Iraq.
"We’ve made it clear to the Turkish government that we have concerns about anything that could lead to escalated concerns or civilian casualties," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The comment came amid new attacks early Wednesday by Turkish bombers on PKK positions inside Iraq. Jabbar Yawar a spokesman for Iraqi Kurdish regional security forces said Turkish warplanes bombed two deserted Kurdish villages inside northern Iraq
The warplanes also shelled eight locations in the Zap region of northern Iraq, across Turkey’s southeastern border, the army said in a statement. It gave no information on any casualties or injuries.
On Tuesday, the Turkish military said that more than 200 Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq have been hit since Dec. 16, and as many as 175 rebels killed.
The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq Massoud Barzani Monday warned neighboring Turkey that he is losing patience with the repeated bombing raids in the north of Iraq.
Barzani said that his people "cannot accept" the bombing raids and shelling, but acknowledged there was little he could do to stop them.
"We cannot accept our villages to be bombed and our people killed," he told reporters in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah, adding that the attacks violated Iraqi sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president who is also a Kurd, said Iraq’s foreign minister had summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to complain, but said he did not want to exacerbate tensions between Iraq and its neighbor.On Sunday, Turkish fighter jets bombed Kurdish targets inside Iraqi territory, in the fourth cross-border operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in one week.
The United States is in a delicate situation since Turkey is a crucial American ally. But the United States does not want to strain relations with the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq and the Iraqi government, which have objected to the Turkish attacks. The PKK, which has sought an autonomous state in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast since the 1980s, is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Philip T. Reeker, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Baghdad, reiterated the American position on the Turkish military operation. “We made clear of course that we would be concerned about anything that leads to civilian casualties or destabilization in northern Iraq,” he said. “So we will continue to watch the situation closely, and the U.S., Iraq and Turkey continue to have common interests in seeing that the activities of the P.K.K. are ended.”
The United States has long cautioned Ankara against a mass incursion into Northern Iraq, fearing that it could disrupt one of Iraq’s most stable regions.
Wednesday’s attacks are the third round of air strikes in 10 days, escalating Turkey’s cross-border war against the PKK and pushing oil prices just below $96 a barrel.