Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Iraq defence minister in Ankara with PKK on agenda

(AFP) – BAGHDAD — Iraq's defence minister met with Turkish officials in Ankara on Tuesday, a spokesman said, a day after Turkey said it wanted to extend a mandate for air strikes on Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq. The top US commander in Iraq General Lloyd Austin was also in the Turkish capital on Tuesday for talks with defence officials, but his spokesman could not confirm whether he would meet Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul. Iraqi Defence Minister Abdul Qader Obeidi held talks with Gonul in a bid to continue the work of a tri-partite committee made up of Baghdad, Ankara and Washington that seeks to track threat posed by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and implement measures to curb the militants. "A delegation from the ministry of defence arrived in Turkey today, headed by Abdul Qader Obeidi, and immediately met with the Turkish defence minister," defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari told AFP. "They discussed security coordination, information exchanges, and activating and continuing the work of the tripartite committee to reduce the activities of militant groups along the Iraqi-Turkish border, especially the PKK." Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said Monday that the Turkish government will ask parliament to extend a mandate for military strikes on Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq, with the current one-year mandate due to expire on October 17. The motion is likely to sail through parliament, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds a comfortable majority. The mandate authorises the government to order cross-border military action against hideouts of the separatist PKK in northern Iraq which the rebels use as a launching pad for strikes on Turkish targets across the border. Using intelligence supplied by the United States, the Turkish army has staged a series of air raids against rebel targets in the region since December 2007, and carried out a number of ground incursions. Also on Tuesday, Austin met with military officials in Ankara on a one-day "introductory visit" that was also to include talks with the Turkish interior minister, and officials from the foreign ministry, according to his spokesman Colonel Barry Johnson. The PKK took up arms against Ankara in 1984 for self-rule in Turkey's Kurdish-populated east and southeast, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives. Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

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