ANKARA (AFP) – Crucial Turkish-Iraqi talks to avert a military operation by Ankara against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq began Friday at the foreign ministry here.
Iraq’s Defence Minister Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassim and National Security Minister Shirwan al-Waeli are in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and Interior Minister Besir Atalay, foreign ministry officials said.
Some members of the 11-man Iraqi delegation were not present at the talks that began shortly before 10:00 a.m. (0700 GMT), they said, and are expected to participate in technical-level meetings with other Turkish officials.
The Iraqi delegation arrived in Ankara on Thursday evening and was put up at an unlikely venue, the Police Guest House in Ankara’s southern suburb of Dikmen, and Turkish officials have been extremely secretive about the meetings.
Media reports said they would also meet officials from the Turkish intelligence service MIT, and the general staff.
Tensions rose after the Turkish parliament last week authorised the government to send troops to northern Iraq to clean up the bases there of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been waging a campaign for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.
The motion was passed on October 17 after a marked increase in PKK attacks on civilian and military targets in Turkey, and tensions peaked after 12 soldiers were killed and eight captured in a PKK ambush last Sunday, near the Iraqi border.
Turkey says it is left with no choice but to take the military option in the face of what it terms US and Iraqi inaction against the PKK, which enjoys safe haven and support in Kurdish-administered northern Iraq.
The arrival of the Iraqi delegation was decided after a one-day trip by Babacan to Baghdad earlier this week, after which he said the Iraqi visit would be useless unless it was accompanied by “concrete proposals.”
The Iraqis told reporters they had arrived with such proposals, but gave no details.