ANKARA (AP)–Two top U.S. generals met with the Turkish army’s second-ranking officer on Tuesday to discuss measures to crack down on PKK members based in northern Iraq.
Turkey has massed troops on its border with Iraq and has been weighing a cross-border attack against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
The United States considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and President Bush told visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month that the U.S. would begin sharing intelligence on the PKK.
Tuesday’s talks–between General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq; and Turkey’s General Ergin Saygun–lasted a few hours, U.S. officials said, but no further details were available. The U.S. Embassy said the meeting was a follow-up to one between Bush and Erdogan.
"The issues of Iraq, the ongoing cooperation against the common enemy, the PKK, and comprehensive intelligence sharing were discussed," the Turkish military said in a statement.
PKK fighters have killed more than 50 Turks in cross-border raids since late September, and pressure is growing on Turkey’s government to strike back.
The United States worries that a Turkish incursion could bring instability to the north–a region that has been the calmest part of Iraq–and could set a precedent for other countries, such as Iran, facing problems with their oppressed Kurdish minorities.
Turkey has complained for years that the U.S. has not done enough to end PKK activity in Iraq’s north. The issue has enraged Turks and moved public opinion against the U.S.
In Brussels, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the threat of a major Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq was less likely due to increased cooperation between Ankara and Baghdad to curb the rebel attacks, including steps to secure the border.
"The threat is still there but we believe the chances of a major invasion are less now," Zebari said Tuesday before talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Iraq’s central government and the Kurdish regional authority of northern Iraq have "very good intentions (but) political will in itself is not enough. You also need the physical capacity" to act.
Babacan and Zebari attended different meetings and did not meet face to face.
Police in Istanbul, meanwhile, detained three suspected PKK members for allegedly planning to carry out bomb attacks in the city on November 27–the anniversary of the group’s founding, the private Dogan news agency reported. Police seized bomb-making material, the agency said.