ANKARA (AFP) – Iraq pleaded for time Wednesday to tackle Turkish Kurd militants on its territory as Turkey’s parliament prepared to authorise military strikes to crush the rebel bases.
“The Iraqi government should be given a chance to prevent the cross-border terrorist activities,” Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said after talks with Turkish leaders in Ankara.
“Give us time to join forces with Turkey to tackle this problem,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
While Hashemi spoke of a “new atmosphere” to resolve the crisis, the Turkish parliament was still expected later Wednesday to adopt a government motion authorising a military incursion against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.
Parliament was scheduled to convene at 3:00pm (1200 GMT).
Wary of the prospect of fresh turmoil in conflict-torn Iraq, the United States has repeatedly urged Turkey against any unilateral military action.
But Washington has lost leverage with Ankara because of a pending Congressional vote on a resolution branding the 1915-17 Ottoman Turk massacres of Armenians as genocide.
Turkey, which staunchly rejects the “genocide” tag, has threatened unspecified reprisals against its NATO ally.
Faced with mounting PKK violence, Ankara says it is left with no choice but military action because neither Washington nor Baghdad are helping curb the rebels.
The PKK has waged a bloody campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1984. The conflict that has claimed more than 37,000 lives.
Turkey says the PKK — listed as a terrorist group by much of the international community, including the US — enjoys free movement in northern Iraq, is tolerated by the region’s Kurdish leaders and obtains weapons and explosives there for attacks across the border in Turkey.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under pressure for tougher action after the rebels killed 15 soldiers in two days this month and were blamed for an ambush of a van days earlier in which 12 people were shot dead.
Erdogan said Tuesday that Ankara’s patience had run out.
“The central government in Iraq and the (Kurdish) regional government in northern Iraq must put a thick wall between themselves and the terrorist organization,” he said.
“Those who are unable to distance themselves from terrorism cannot avoid being adversely affected by the struggle against terrorism,” he said.
Erdogan said the parliamentary authorisation would not mean immediate military action in Iraq.
An incursion would take place “if there is a need, at the right time, at the right place and in a manner to obtain the best result,” he said.
The Iraqi cabinet held an emergency meeting Tuesday and decided to send a high-level delegation to Ankara for talks.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned that Iraq “will not accept military solutions… even though we realise and understand the worries of our Turkish friends.”