AFP | July 10, 2008

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on his first trip to Iraq, said on Thursday that Ankara would back Iraq in fighting terrorism while Baghdad and Kurdish leaders had offered support in Turkey’s fight against Kurdish rebels.

“We received support from Nuri al-Maliki’s government and the Kurdistan regional government against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party),” Erdogan told reporters during a joint news conference with Iraq’s prime minister Maliki.

“The PKK is a threat not only to Iraq and Turkey but to the whole region. We don’t allow such organisations to poison the relations between the two countries,” he said.

“There is a joint understanding concerning this issue. There is a joint will to remove the organisation.”

Ankara charges that more than 2,000 Kurdish rebels have found a safe haven in northern Iraq, where they are able to obtain weapons and explosives for attacks inside Turkey.

Turkish troops regularly carry out cross-border raids inside northern Iraq, aided by intelligence from the United States, which like the European Union sees the PKK as a terrorist group.

The PKK sees itself as an independence organisation and has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

Speaking after his talks with Maliki in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, Erdogan also pledged Ankara’s support for reconstruction efforts in the war-torn country.

“I salute the people of Iraq with whom we have lived together for long. Be optimistic that this difficult situation will pass. Inshallah (God Willing) you will find me always beside you to defeat your difficulties.”


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