Zebari says Iraq wants PKK out as ‘soon as possible’

October 19, 2007, Friday/ 19:40:00
Iraq wants the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq to leave as soon as possible, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Thursday.
He also said he did not expect Turkey to launch a major military operation in Iraq anytime soon, saying that if it were to attack, it would probably be limited to airstrikes on suspected PKK positions. “This party [the PKK] is not present with the approval of the Iraqi government or the government of the Kurdish region. The Iraqi government has asked them and other military groups to leave Iraq,” Zebari told Reuters in an interview. “Absolutely, with no doubt, our formal request is that they leave Iraqi soil and leave Iraq for its people and do not bring us more problems than we’re already suffering. Kurdistan is a stable area and it is not in the interests of any party, or any side, to threaten its stability.”

Asked if the government was giving the PKK a timetable to leave, Zebari said, “As soon as possible.” He also said the Iraqi government was not comfortable with a Turkish parliamentary vote this week giving its military permission to cross into northern Iraq to hunt down PKK members.

“The Turkish decision does not serve Iraqi-Turkish relations, especially as it gives Turkish forces the authorization to violate the sovereignty of another country,” Zebari said. “The Iraqi government is not comfortable with such a decision,” he said, adding, “This permission is a sword hanging over the neck of Iraq and its unity and sovereignty and we take it seriously.”

Divide between Kurds, Baghdad exposed

Turkey’s plans to hit the PKK bases in northern Iraq has apparently exposed new sectarian fissures in the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with a senior aide to Maliki complaining of a lack of responsibility on the side of the Iraqi Kurdish administration that autonomously governs the northern part of the country.

Sami al-Askari, a close aide to Maliki, complained in an interview with US-funded Radio Sawa that leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region only acknowledge they are part of Iraq when they need the central government to come to their rescue. “They consider whatever goes on in their region a Kurdish affair, but when they face a crisis they remember that they belong to the country and are part of the Iraqi government that should defend them,” he said.

Askari, who, like the prime minister, is a Shiite Muslim, also derided Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab and regular harsh critic of Maliki, for going to Turkey without first consulting with Iraq’s government.

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