- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

From combined dispatches

ANKARA — A senior U.S. official yesterday pledged “serious efforts” to curb Kurdish rebels from Turkey who are based in northern Iraq, an issue that has long poisoned U.S. ties with Turkey.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said after talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington would continue to support Ankara’s struggle against the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist group by both countries.

On Wednesday, Iraqi and U.S. forces raided the Mahmour refugee camp in northern Iraq, which Turkey says is under PKK control.

Mr. Burns said he hoped the raid marked “the beginning of a serious effort to close the camp and make sure that northern Iraq is not used by the PKK to attack Turkey.”

Turkey says Kurdish-run northern Iraq has become a training ground for the PKK, where the rebels enjoy unrestricted movement and are easily able to obtain weapons and explosives.

Turkey has threatened a cross-border military operation to crack down on the PKK if Washington and Iraqi forces fail to take measures.

Turkey yesterday welcomed the raid on the refugee camp and urged further steps to battle the PKK in northern Iraq.

“We desire a continuation of such steps … in the context of our hopes for an end to the presence and activities of the PKK terrorist organization in Iraq,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said.

“The Mahmour camp must be closed. To this end, a climate must be created in which the PKK presence and pressure in the camp are ended and our citizens living there can decide freely on their future,” it said.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said a cache of mortar rounds had been discovered during Wednesday’s operation, contradicting earlier comments by Iraqi Kurdish officials that no weapons had been found.

More than 30,000 people have been killed, mostly in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey, since the PKK began its armed campaign for a Kurdish homeland in 1984.

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