Turkey Makes Deal With Iraqi Kurds on Border Security
AS Turkey's cross-border military operation in northern Iraq winds down, Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish leaders have come to terms on security arrangements along the border.The deal follows several days of talks in Ankara between senior Turkish administration and military authorities and two Iraqi Kurdish leaders about Turkey's military incursion into northern Iraq last week. The Turkish strikes aimed to destroy bases and camps of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), an underground Kurdish separatist organization engaged in guerrilla activity in southeastern Turkey. The Turkish cross-border operation was launched last Monday, after PKK guerrillas escalated their attacks against Turkish military and civilian targets from their bases in northern Iraq. The Turkish Air Force bombed several PKK camps, and this action was followed by intensive "cleanup" operations by commando units and other ground forces. Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said on Aug. 11 that most of the Turkish forces inside northern Iraq would likely start withdrawing by the end of the week. He said, however, that Turkey's "surveillance of the border areas used by the PKK bandits for infiltration will continue." Turkish officials and senior officers stress that Turkey will do whatever is needed to protect the lives of its citizens and servicemen in southeastern Turkey, including creating a Turkish "security zone" along the Iraqi-Turkish border, some three miles inside northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Safa Giray said last Friday that a Turkish military presence was necessary "at least for the next two months." Other senior government officials also indicated that Turkish troops would have to remain in the so-called "buffer zone" until authority is restored in that region. The official Turkish reason for the military action against northern Iraq was, in Mr. Yilmaz's words, "the lack of authority" that allowed the PKK to set up bases there to conduct raids on Turkey. Yilmaz made it clear that Turkey does not want to keep large forces in northern Iraq in order to enforce a security zone. Iran and Syria have already expressed suspicion over the Turkish border raid, and some EC countries, including Germany, have condemned the violation of Iraq's sovereignty by Turkey. Opposition leaders in Turkey have also spoken out against the incursion. In order to avoid a controversial military presence, the Turkish government decided to make a deal with the Iraqi Kurdish leaders, whose peshmergas, or militias, are more or less in control of that area. According to reports yesterday, the Turkish government has agreed to grant food, medicine, and other aid to the Kurds in northern Iraq directly, in return for the Iraqi Kurdish leadership's cooperation in meeting Turkey's security needs in that area. After talks in Ankara, Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said, "We don't want the PKK to use our territory for activities directed against Turkey. We shall not permit this. We have given guarantees to the Turkish authorities to this effect." Before this weekend's talks, Mr. Talabani had criticized Turkey's military action and said the Turks had no right to enter "Kurdistan." He had also claimed that Iraqi Kurdish civilians and peshmergas were killed during the Turkish bombing. The Turkish government said that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership was informed before the cross-border raid and asked to keep their men out of the area. Privately Talabani has repeatedly said that Turkey's interests lie in dealing directly and cooperating with the Iraqi Kurds and supporting their demand for autonomy in northern Iraq. In this context, the deal has a deeper political significance: Turkey thus gives moral support to the Iraqi Kurds who want to consolidate their de facto control of northern Iraq. The question of Kurdish autonomy in Iraq has been an embarrassing issue for Turkey, which itself has a large Kurdish population mostly concentrated along the Iraqi border. Many Turks (even in high administration positions) suspect that the ultimate goal of all Kurds - in Iraq as well as in Turkey - is to achieve separation and independence. Critics of President Turgut Ozal's more flexible policy on the Kurdish problem attack him for starting even a dialogue with the Iraqi-Kurdish leadership. The Turkish military action to eradicate the PKK presence in northern Iraq has, however, led the government to establish closer contacts with that leadership, and possibly a cooperation with the peshmergas whom Turkey now wants to play a role in helping its security.