Turks in Kurdistan

Owen Byrne owen@permafrost.net
Fri, 21 Mar 2003 20:38:36 -0400

Turkey moves 1,000 soldiers into northern Iraq

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*By Suzan Fraser*


March 21, 2003  |  ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey moved 1,000 soldiers 
into northern Iraq on Friday to beef up its forces there, a Turkish 
military official said. Turkey already maintains several thousand 
soldiers backed by a few dozen tanks in northern Iraq to chase Turkish 
Kurdish guerrillas. Turkey is also shifting some 5,000 soldiers to the 
border region, the military official said, speaking on customary 
condition of anonymity.

The Turkish foreign minister said Friday his nation was determined to 
send its troops over the border into northern Iraq to contain a possible 
refugee flow and prevent any attempt by Iraqi Kurds to break away from 

Abdullah Gul's remarks came despite strong opposition in Washington to 
any unilateral move by Turkey into northern Iraq. U.S. Secretary of 
State Colin Powell said Friday: "We don't see any need for any Turkish 
incursions into northern Iraq."

But "Turkish soldiers will go in," Gul told reporters on his return from 
a trip from Brussels.

Gul's statement came after Turkey agreed Friday to allow U.S. 
overflights for a war with Iraq, reversing an earlier decision to block 
Turkey's airspace because of a disagreement with the United States over 
a Turkish troop deployment.

Washington has warned that a Turkish incursion could lead to friendly 
fire incidents with U.S. forces. Iraqi Kurdish groups say the move could 
lead to clashes.

In Washington, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of 
anonymity, said Turkey opened its airspace without any conditions 
attached, adding that the U.S. administration continued to discuss the 
issue of Turkish troops separately.

Turkey's Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul also said Turkish and U.S. 
officials would continue negotiations.

Turkey has frequently sent soldiers into northern Iraq to chase Kurdish 
rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which fought a 
15-year battle for autonomy from Turkey.

Gul said Turkey wanted to prevent Iraq's breakup and to contain a 
possible refugee flow within Iraq's borders.

"Turkey's Iraq policy is ... Iraq's territorial integrity, that Iraq's 
resources are shared by the whole population ... that a refugee flow is 
contained within Iraq," Gul said.

"Turkey has no designs whatsoever on Iraq's territory. Turkey will take 
measures in line with these aims," he said.

Turkey fears that Iraq could fragment during a war, leading Iraqi Kurds 
to declare independence, which could encourage Turkish Kurdish rebels.

Turkey's parliament voted Thursday to allow the United States to use the 
airspace, a measure that would allow strike aircraft on carriers in the 
Mediterranean to fly more directly into Iraq.

The resolution passed by parliament would also allow Turkey to move its 
own forces into northern Iraq.