Destabilisation of region feared

Thomas Grove

Thomas Grove

CIZRE, Turkey - Turkey said yesterday that it is still considering a military solution to tackle Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, but Washington urged dialogue to avert an incursion it fears will destabilise the region.

Turkish-Iraqi talks aimed at preventing a cross-border operation into northern Iraq collapsed late on Friday when Ankara rejected Iraqi proposals as insufficient.

Turkey has massed up to 100000 troops, backed by fighters, helicopters, gun ships and tanks, on the border for a possible offensive against about 3000 rebels who use Iraq as a base from which to carry out attacks.

"We can use or continue to use diplomatic means or resort to military means. All of these are on the table, so to speak," Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Iran's press television channel.

Alongside diplomatic initiatives, Turkey has used stiff rhetoric that is seen as an attempt to press the US and Iraq into action. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that a military operation could be carried out whenever it was needed.

Ankara has demanded that Iraq hand over all members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based in the north of the country. The PKK is blamed for more than 30000 deaths since the start of its separatist campaign in southeast Turkey in 1984.

But Iraq's central government has little control over the semi-autonomous northern area run by the Kurdistan regional government.

The US fears a Turkish incursion would destabilise the relatively peaceful north of Iraq and the wider region. -Reuters