BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, has met a senior military official in Turkey to discuss Kurdish rebels launching attacks into Turkey from northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.
The meeting on Friday with General Hasan Igsiz, deputy chief of the Turkish General Staff, “centered on U.S. forces’ ongoing assistance to Turkey in its effort to defeat the Kurdish rebel group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK,” the military said in a statement.
Turkey has launched air strikes and shelled rebel areas in recent weeks in the most recent twist of its long campaign to crush the PKK rebels, who have carried out cross-border attacks from camps in mountain areas of Iraq near the Turkish border.
Turkey has stepped up its military response since an attack from the PKK which killed 17 Turkish soldiers this month.
The United States and European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organisation and Turkey blames it for the death of more than 40,000 people in its decades-long bid for an ethnic Kurdish homeland.
Odierno promised to share intelligence in support of efforts against the PKK. “There are things we can do now, in the short-term, to help protect the lives of innocent people, and we’re committed to supporting our Turkish and Iraqi partners in this effort,” Odierno said.
PKK attacks have been a strain to Iraqi-Turkish ties, but the two countries appear to be making a renewed diplomatic push to find a coordinated response to the conflict.
Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that the two countries, along with the United States, should work together to “end the danger” posed by the PKK.