Rice visits Iraq as Turkish offensives raise tensions

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champTurkey’s recent moves against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq have placed the United States in a delicate position between a NATO ally and the Iraqi government it backs. But Rice sidestepped a query on the Turkish strike at a news conference in Baghdad, saying the United States, Iraq and Turkey had a “common interest” in stopping attacks by the Kurdistan Workers Party, known by its Kurdish initials, PKK. Still, she reiterated words of caution for Turkey, which says that it has the right to strike at the PKK in Iraq because the group’s presence there threatens Turkey’s sovereignty. “No one should do anything that threatens to destabilize the north,” Rice said. The PKK has bases in Turkey as well as Iraq, and the United States considers it a terrorist organization. The group, which wants an autonomous Kurdish region in eastern Turkey, has fought the Turkish military for decades. The cross-border operation came two days after Turkey carried out broad airstrikes in northern Iraq against the group. The United States provided intelligence and opened Iraqi airspace for the airstrikes, according to Turkey’s top military commander. Iraqi officials angrily protested the strikes, saying they had killed four people and displaced 286 families. While Pentagon officials said after Sunday’s airstrikes that the United States had “deconflicted” the airspace over northern Iraq for Turkey, The Associated Press quoted unnamed U.S. military and diplomatic officials Tuesday as saying they did not know Turkey was sending warplanes until they had already crossed the border to bomb. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, speaking in the capital, Ankara, used careful diplomatic language to describe Turkey’s military efforts but avoided speaking directly of the Tuesday strike. “At the moment, our army is doing whatever is necessary,” he said, according to the official Anatolian News Agency. “From now on, our security forces will continue to do whatever is necessary.” Rice did not detail the reason for Tuesday’s trip, her eighth to Iraq, though in visiting Kirkuk she highlighted the city’s pivotal role in determining the Iraqi geopolitical landscape.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! BAGHDAD – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Tuesday, visiting the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and then Baghdad, as tensions mounted along the country’s mountainous border with Turkey. Shortly before the visit, Turkish troops staged a brief cross-border attack into northern Iraq to strike at a group of Kurdish militants there. The Turkish military, in a statement on its Web site, said that troops had inflicted heavy losses on the fighters after spotting them trying to cross into Turkey on Monday night. U.S. military officers in Washington and overseas said the Turkish ground force sent across the border numbered only in the hundreds and that it moved fewer than two miles into Iraqi territory. Turkey said only that it was a “small-scale operation,” and the nation indicated that troops quickly returned to Turkey. “Nothing the Turks have done to date should be considered a surprise,” said a U.S. military officer, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing actions of a sovereign ally. “We’ve shared information as we said we would do. The decision to pursue military options is theirs.” U.S. officials said the Turkish operation appeared to be over. last_img read more

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