US Ambassador Ricciardone says US gives utmost support to fight against PKK

US Ambassador Ricciardone says US gives utmost support to fight against PKK

US Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone

May 09, 2011, Monday/ 16:30:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

US Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone has refuted claims that the United States has not given enough support to Turkey in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and said that the US gives the utmost support to the cause.

Ricciardone said that the two countries have long cooperated closely in the fight against the PKK, adding that the US government wants to help Turkey more if possible.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency in the western province of İzmir on Monday, Ricciardone said that the US was in diplomatic cooperation with Turkey in combating terrorism and called on other countries to put pressure on the terrorist organization .

The US ambassador also recalled that the US has designated five leaders of the outlawed PKK as drug traffickers, adding them to a sanctions list that already covers the terrorist group more generally. The US Department of the Treasury announced in April that Cemil Bayık, Duran Kalkan, Remzi Kartal, Sabri Ok and Adem Uzun were named Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The five individuals were described as founders and leaders of the Kurdistan People's Congress (Kongra-Gel). In 2003, the PKK changed its name to Kongra-Gel, but it is still widely referred to as the PKK in Turkey, as the name change had no impact on the terrorist group's leadership structure or activities. The PKK/Kongra-Gel has been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

In addition Ricciardone said that Turkey and the US were cooperating in diplomacy, law and intelligence to combat the terrorism of the PKK.

Ricciardone said that the US was also assisting Turkey in regard to the defense industry, recalling that US defense giant Sikorsky won a $3.5 billion tender for the joint manufacture of helicopters for the Turkish army. He noted that the tender would boost Turkey's military skills and improve the export capacity of the country.

Perfect relations between the two countries in the areas of strategy, politics, defense and security would continue, he said, emphasizing that commercial ties should improve. The US ambassador said that representatives from more than ten US companies operating in the oil and gas sectors will visit Turkey soon to discuss cooperation opportunities with Turkish businesspeople. He added that Turkish businesspeople will also visit the US to hold talks.

Trade volume between the two countries reached almost $13 billion in 2010, and the flow is in the US's favor, as Turkey's imports from the US are more than double the volume of its exports to the country. In 2009, US exports to Turkey were $7.09 billion, while imports from Turkey were $3.66 billion, bringing total bilateral trade to $10.75 billion.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek recently criticized the lack of international support for Turkey in its fight against the PKK. He called on countries that are against al-Qaeda to adopt the same stance with regard to the PKK as well.

Çiçek's statement came in the aftermath of an armed attack on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's police escort on May 4, which is suspected to be a plot directly targeting the ruling party ahead of the June 12 general elections.

Government officials said that the PKK is most likely behind the attack.

In addition, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül has said that he wished that other countries would cooperate against the PKK as they did against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by the US forces on May 1.

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