ANKARA, Turkey - The American State Department's No. 2 official discussed security preparations for this month's Iraq election during a meeting yesterday with Turkish officials, who pressed him to move against thousands of autonomy-seeking Turkish Kurds based in northern Iraq.
But with American troops battling a bloody insurgency in Iraq and warnings of even more violent attacks by rebels hoping to affect the January 30 election, America has made clear it has no intention of cracking down on the rebels any time soon.
"We are going to have, we hope in the near future, a trilateral meeting here to discuss the whole question of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party]," the deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, said after meeting with the Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul. He did not elaborate. Turkey pressed American to move against the estimated 4,000 to 5,000 rebels based in the mountains of northern Iraq and considered by Washington to be a terrorist group.
Turkey raised concerns over what it believes are attempts by Iraqi Kurds to try to solidify their presence in the oil-rich and ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, at the expense of the Turkmen - a group akin to the Turks, a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity.
But Mr. Armitage said Turkmen and Kurds were forcibly displaced and efforts were being made to address the problem. The PKK has battled government forces in a conflict that has killed 37,000 since 1984.Clashes tapered off after a rebel truce in 1999, but there has been a surge in violence since June 1, when the rebels declared an end to the cease-fire, saying Turkey had not responded in kind.