ANKARA, Turkey, (AP) – Turkey’s foreign minister said Thursday that any incursion by Turkish forces into Iraq would target Kurdish guerrilla fighters and their bases and “would not be an invasion.”
Ali Babacan said an upcoming meeting Monday between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Bush “will determine the steps that Turkey would take.” But if Turkey sends its troops into Iraq, “any cross-border attack would be aimed at hitting terrorist bases and would not be an invasion,” he said.
Still, he indicated growing frustration with the government of the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, accusing it of inaction against the rebels, who stage attacks on Turkey.
“We have doubts about the sincerity of the administration in northern Iraq in the struggle against the terrorist organization,” Babacan said. “We want to see solid steps — we hope our point of contacts understand the seriousness of this job.”
He also said some economic measures aimed at rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq already have been put in place, and Turkey is also considering stopping flights to the region.
Iraq’s Kurdish region has relied heavily on Turkish food imports as well as Turkish investment in construction works and Turkish electricity, which accounts for 10 percent of its power use.
The border crisis is already taking its toll, with commercial flights between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan reportedly canceled, and some Turkish companies scaling back or delaying investment plans there.
It is not clear, however, what impact economic sanctions would have on the PKK, a guerrilla group operating out of remote mountain bases with little reliance on conventional supply routes.
“They are carefully evaluated and aimed at the economic resources of the terrorist organization and those who give support to it, and some measures have already been put in place,” Babacan said.
“We are not going to announce them, but will implement them when needed,” he said, elaborating only to say that flights to northern Iraq “might be” restricted as well. “We have all kinds of options on the table against the PKK right now,” Babacan said.
But in other comments, Erdogan contradicted Babacan, telling the state-run Anatolya news agency that economic measures were not yet being implemented.
“There’s nothing right now,” he was quoted as saying, also adding that when they were implemented, it would be announced.
Both said any economic measures put in place would be targeted specifically at the rebel fighters.
“We would not want to hurt either the Iraqi people or the people living in Turkey with these economic measures,” Babacan said. “They are carefully evaluated and aimed at the economic resources of the terrorist organization and those who give support to it.”
Erdogan added, however, that while “our main target is the terrorist organization and the areas where the PKK is based, those aiding and abetting the terrorist organization would be evaluated as same and have sanctions imposed against them.”