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Turkey, Iraq sign anti-terrorism pact
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Turkey and Iraq on Friday signed an agreement to fight against terrorism, but still differed over Turkey's military incursion into northern Iraq to strike bases of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).


Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay and his visiting Iraqi counterpart Jawad al-Bulani signed the counter-terrorism agreement, though the two sides were unable to reach a consensus on the 4th article which envisages "hot pursuit" of PKK elements in northern Iraq, said concerned Turkish sources.


The agreement stresses the will of both countries to fully implement concerned UN Security Council resolutions on anti-terrorism.


Both countries also affirmed that they are responsible to judge the people who support and participate in financing, planning, preparing and implementing activities of terrorist organization on the basis of "judge or extradite" principle.


The pact, however, falls short of meeting Ankara's demand to send troops in pursuit of PKK rebels fleeing across the border into northern Iraq, Turkish private NTV television said.


The deal came a day after Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the United States to act against Kurdish rebels, warning that continued inaction was harming U.S. ties with its NATO ally.


Atalay told a joint press conference with al-Bulani after the signing ceremony that the two countries will maintain negotiations as "it was not possible to reach a deal (now) on an article about strengthening of security and cooperation in border regions and advancement of measures against terrorist organizations in border regions."


"We believe that the Iraqi government's positive perspective and will on cooperation in fight against terrorism will contribute to measures that hinder activities of the terrorist organization PKK which is particularly carrying out its activities in north of Iraq," he added.


According to the Turkish official, he and al-Bulani discussed ways to hinder activities of the terrorist organizations, particularly the PKK, and the two countries' cooperation in this regard as well as Turkey's assistance to train Iraqi security forces.


"The two countries pledged to prevent the use of their territories by terrorist groups for accommodation, training, planning and propaganda and for staging terrorist attacks on the other country," said Atalay.


For his part, al-Bulani expressed that the Iraqi government has been trying to enhance cooperation with its neighbors as a multilateral fight is required against terrorism which is a problem upsetting all countries and societies in the world.


The PKK is one of several terrorist groups in Iraq, many of which are not of Iraqi origin, al-Bulani said, calling on the governments of neighboring countries to work together to put an end to heinous attacks on security forces and civilians.


He stressed that terrorism is a problem upsetting all countries and societies in the world.


According to the Turkish army in June, among the total of some 5,000 PKK militants, some 2,800-3,100 are based in northern Iraq.


The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, launched an armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in the mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking decades of strife that has claimed more than 30,000 lives.


The group has increased attacks on Turkish troops in southeastern Turkey in recent months, which led to rising Turkish demands for an incursion into northern Iraq to crush the rebels based there.


However, the Iraqi side, particularly the Kurds controlling northern Iraq, fears Turkish army's cross-border incursion could pave the way for unprompted its military action inside the Iraqi territories.


It insists that if the two sides reach an agreement in this regard, the agreement must specify that such pursuits could not take place without a prior permission from the Iraqi authorities.


CNN Turk TV channel quoted Kemal Kirkuki, deputy speaker of Iraq's Kurdish parliament, as saying that any move that would involve violation of the Iraqi border has to be approved by the Kurdish parliament.


The Iraqi interior minister had no right to sign such an agreement without approval from the Iraqi national parliament and the Kurdish parliament in northern Iraq, he stressed.


Al-Bulani arrived in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Tuesday. His visit is a follow-up to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) reached by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki in early August when Maliki visited Turkey.


In the MoU, the PKK was declared a terrorist organization, with Maliki assuring Turkey that Iraq will not allow the presence of terrorist groups within its borders.


During Maliki's visit, Turkey and Iraq had agreed to crack down on PKK rebels active in the Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. But the embattled Iraqi prime minister was believed to have scant clout in the Kurdish region to persuade the local Kurds to take actions against the PKK.


Ankara threatened military incursion into northern Iraq to strike the PKK base if Baghdad and Washington fail to curb the terrorists.


Just a day before al-Bulani's arrival in Ankara, a top Turkish military commander targeted the US in remarks indicating that the military has little patience left with U.S. inaction over threats posed by PKK, saying that launching a military operation into Iraq to crush the PKK remained a viable option for Turkey.


Regarding Turkey's demands on the issue, Washington consistently says it is committed to jointly working with Turkey in the fight against the PKK within the framework of a trilateral mechanism between Ankara, Baghdad and Washington.


Yet Ankara doesn't seem to pin high hopes on the inactive trilateral mechanism, attributing considerably high importance to a strong bilateral cooperation with its neighbor on the ground.


By maintaining a legal basis for a cross-border operation or hot pursuit of PKK terrorists via the eventual counterterrorism agreement with Iraq, the ongoing fight by Turkish security forces against the PKK is expected to be made much more effective.

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said last week during his visit to Turkey that Ankara should establish "political dialogue" with Iraqi officials, hinting at the establishment of dialogue with the Iraqi Kurdish administration in particular.


However, Ankara has repeatedly stated that it accepts only the central Iraqi government as the counterpart for establishing cooperation in its fight against the PKK based in northern Iraq, which is autonomously governed by the Iraqi Kurdish leadership.


(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2007)

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