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Report: Iraqi Kurds strain U.S.-Turkey ties 30 juin 2006

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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UPI, June 27, 2006

Lauren Mcdermott, Washington

Diplotmatic ties between the United States and Turkey are fractured and unless strong efforts are made to improve them, Washington may lose an important ally in the Middle East, warns a new report.

Among the most contentious issues cited in the Council of Foreign Relations report was the brittle relationship between the United States and Turkey with regards to the separatist Kurdish population living in northern Iraq.

Ankara remains upset that the Bush administration dismissed its pre-invasion fear that Iraq would be split into three separate states, the report notes, adding that the United States has done little to alleviate Turkey’s ongoing security concerns. Heading the list is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a protracted campaign of violence against the Turkish state.

Steven A. Cook, a fellow at the Council and co-author of the report, said there are certain efforts Turkey would like from the United States with regard to the Kurds in northern Iraq that the United States is not in a position to achieve. According to the report, Turkey would like the United States to engage the PKK directly or provide the Turkish military with the support to do so themselves.

The United States has recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization and has been urging the rest of Europe to do the same; however, Turkey would like direct action from the United States. « Turkey is concerned with violence from the PKK, » Cook said. « They turned the Bush administration’s own words back on them and said ‘either you are with us or you’re against us’ when it comes to PKK violence. »

The report states that U.S. forces in Iraq are « highly unlikely » to go directly after the PKK due to the relative stability of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Although the Turks recognize the position of the Americans in the region, they still feel that in order to remain consistently committed to the global war on terror, Washington must work to eliminate PKK violence from Iraq, the report notes.

A resolution to the Kurdish issue is part of the two-track plan for reform presented in the Council report. In the short term, it calls for the United States to engage in trilateral discussions with the Turks and representatives of Iraqi Kurds to discuss the direction of Turkish-Kurdish relationships should Iraq disintegrate into three separate states.

Turkey fears the creation of a Kurdish state in Iraq would threaten the stability of the Kurdish region in its southeast. The report further proposes that the initial process for the discussions should include clarifying the positions of all parties on the future of northern Iraq; seeing and identifying areas of joint interest, including investment by Turkish markets; free trade and border controls; and, finally, possible methods for dealing with the PKK in Iraq. Cook calls this suggestion one of the most important recommendations made to immediately address one of the more pressing problems facing U.S.-Turkish relations.

Bulent Aliriza, director and senior associate for the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, considers the suggestion of trilateral discussions to be a promising one. He agrees that talks among the United States, Turks and Iraqi Kurds would allow discussion of the broader issues of Iraq and how the Turks could respond to a stronger Kurdish presence in northern Iraq.

Still, he fears that such a suggestion could not be carried out. « Frankly, it would not be possible to put together such a meeting, » Aliriza said. « Not least because the Iraqi Kurds are part of the unified Iraqi government and taking them out of that context would not work. It is a good idea, but difficult to practice. »

The report, presented to the U.S. State Department last week, suggests that any discussions include the necessary officials from the U.S. and Turkish governments, but concede that it would be more difficult to clearly decide who would be included as Kurdish representation.

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