BRUSSELS, (Reuters) – The European Commission called on Friday for differences between EU candidate Turkey and Iraq to be solved peacefully after Turkey’s top general called for a military operation to quash Turkish Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.
“Our hope and the interest of all involved is that possible differences are dealt with in a peaceful and constructive manner,” the European Union executive’s spokeswoman on enlargement, Krisztina Nagy, told a news briefing. She declined to comment directly on a statement by armed forces chief of staff General Yasar Buyukanit at a rare news conference on Thursday that “from military point of view, a (military) operation in northern Iraq must be made”.
Buyukanit added that the military had not made any request to parliament to authorise a cross-border operation.
Nagy said Brussels was following closely the situation in the region.
“The stability of Iraq is in our common interest and the EU recognises the constructive role Turkey plays in the area, and in this context it is important that Turkey continues to play such a constructive role,” she said.
The EU requires candidate countries to resolve disputes with their neighbours peacefully, and to impose civilian control over the military. “This is not the type of statement that goes in line with the candidacy process,” another EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of Buyukanit’s comments.
EU diplomats say Turkey does have a genuine problem with fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), believed to operate from rear bases in the mountainous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
But they have long warned that a military strike into northern Iraq would give Ankara’s critics in the EU ammunition to block or further slow its accession process.