Erdoğan: US warm to Turkish request to base Predators in Turkey

Erdoğan: US warm to Turkish request to base Predators in Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accompanied by Turkish officials, speaks during a meeting with US President Barack Obama. (Photo: AA)

September 21, 2011, Wednesday/ 12:54:00/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM

The United States administration is likely to agree to a Turkish request to base its Predator drones in Turkey after the US withdrawal from Iraq, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after talks with President Barack Obama in Washington.

“I think there will be no problem regarding the Predators issue,” Erdoğan told reporters at a New York hotel following the meeting with Obama on Tuesday. Turkey has requested the US to base a fleet of Predator drones on its soil for cross-border operations against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which uses its bases in northern Iraq for attacks on Turkish targets. The Obama administration has yet to decide on the request.

Erdoğan said Turkey could buy or rent Predators and that Turkey has conveyed its request to that effect to the US. “Their approach is positive,” Erdoğan said, adding that there is no problem in intelligence sharing between Turkey and the US regarding PKK activities.

The Predators have been flying from Iraqi bases since 2007 and the US shares data from the planes' surveillance with Turkey as part of the two NATO allies' cooperation against the PKK. Now that the US forces are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq by end of the year, this cooperation may effectively come to an end unless new bases are found for the Predators.

“Our requests concern the question of what the US will do with the weapons [in Iraq] following the withdrawal. We have already conveyed these requests to them,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan also stated that his one-and-a-half-hour meeting with Obama focused primarily on counterterrorism efforts, and added that Obama vowed support for Turkey in its fight against the PKK. “He told us that the US was ready to give every kind of support in the joint fight against terrorism,” said Erdoğan, adding that the US has stuck to its position that the PKK is a common enemy for both Turkey and the US.

The Turkish military launched aerial strikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq in August, responding to a spike in attacks since July which have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Turkish soldiers. Erdoğan also said Turkey has handed a “list of requests” to the US in the fight against the PKK, but did not elaborate.

On Tuesday, an explosion caused by a car bomb ripped through a street in the Turkish capital of Ankara near a neighborhood housing government buildings, killing three people. Later in the day, the PKK attacked a police academy in southeastern Turkey, killing four women in a passing vehicle.

Obama and Erdoğan, in their public comments to reporters, focused on the deadly attacks in Turkey on Tuesday that they agreed underscored the need for cooperation on counterterrorism. “This reminds us that terrorism exists in many parts of the world, and Turkey and the United States are going to be strong partners in preventing terrorism,” Obama said.

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