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Turkey says diplomacy still on table in PKK fight

October 28, 2007
MYT 5:30:33 PM

Turkey says diplomacy still on table in PKK fight

By Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Turkey's foreign minister said on Sunday that diplomatic and military options could both be used in the country's fight against Kurdish PKK guerrillas based in northern Iraq. 

Ali Babacan was speaking after talks with Iraq aimed at averting a Turkish cross-border raid collapsed on Friday. Ankara rejected Iraqi proposals for tackling the PKK as insufficient and said they would not yield results quickly enough. 

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan (L) and his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki speak at a joint news conference in Tehran October 28, 2007. Babacan said on Sunday that diplomatic and military options could both be used in the country's fight against Kurdish PKK guerrillas based in northern Iraq. (REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)
Babacan, visiting neighbouring Iran, said Turkey had lost patience with the Kurdish guerrilla group and that it had different instruments at its disposal. 

"For example, we can use or continue to use diplomatic means, or resort to military means. All of these are on the table, so to speak," he said in comments translated into English by Iran's Press TV television channel. He did not elaborate. 

Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed by fighter jets, helicopter gunships, tanks, and mortars, on the border for a possible offensive against about 3,000 rebels using Iraq as a base from which to carry out attacks in Turkey. 

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched its campaign for a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey in 1984. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict since then. 

In Baghdad, Iraq's government said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had told it he supports a crackdown on PKK rebels in northern Iraq but wants a peaceful solution to the crisis. 

A statement said Ahmedinejad had phoned Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to discuss the issue: "They agreed that military action is not the sole option in dealing with the crisis, which should be resolved by peaceful means." 

Iran also has a Kurdish minority and has faced cross-border attacks by rebels. Like Turkey, Iran has at times shelled targets inside Iraq in response to the raids. 

Babacan, who held talks with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki and was also due to meet Ahmadinejad, said the fight against terrorism was "hugely important" for Turkey, as was Iraq's territorial integrity. 

"These two do not contradict one another," he said. "Our goal is to target terrorist groups ... We are not entertaining any ideas on Iraqi territory and their resources." 

The United States opposes a major incursion into Iraq by its NATO ally Turkey, fearing it could destabilise the relatively peaceful north of Iraq and the wider region. 

Babacan thanked Iran -- Washington's arch-foe -- for helping Turkey to fight the PKK and said the two sides had talked about continuing their cooperation, without giving details. 

"I'm very happy with the support given to us," he said. 

Speaking at the same press conference, Mottaki said Iran "condemns recent terrorist acts by the PKK in Turkey and ... underlines the necessity in fighting against terrorists." 

(Additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Baghdad) 

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