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Bush Pledges Support for Turkey's Erdogan

Kurdish-American protesters hold a demonstration opposing the potential Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq outside the White House.
Win McNamee / Getty Images
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Kurdish-American protesters hold a demonstration opposing the potential Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq outside the White House.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the United Nations General Assembly in this file photo. He was in Washington on Monday to meet with President Bush about the growing tensions between Turkey and Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the United Nations General Assembly in this file photo. He was in Washington on Monday to meet with President Bush about the growing tensions between Turkey and Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

President Bush has promised new support for Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his struggle to contain Kurdish rebels who have been using northern Iraq as a base to stage attacks on Turkish targets.

Declaring the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, "an enemy of Turkey, a free Iraq and the United States," Bush said the United States would share intelligence and work with Turkey against the Kurds.

Hosting Erdogan at the White House, Bush sought to ease tensions along Iraq's northern border, where tens of thousands of Turkish troops have been stationed, poised to move against Kurdish rebels.

Erdogan welcomed the help, but he made it clear he is determined to fight the Kurdish rebels.

"Because they have declared the PKK as a terrorist organization," Erdogan said, "it is important that we fight jointly against the leaders, the murderers against this organization."

Erdogan said his parliament has already given him the mandate for a limited cross-border operation against the PKK.

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised to redouble efforts against the PKK, but Turkey made it clear that is not enough.

History of Conflict

Turkish leaders have signaled that any decision on what to do about the rebels might hinge on the outcome of the Bush-Erdogan talks in Washington.

The PKK, which has fought for a wider Kurdish state that encompasses parts of Turkey since 1984, is labeled a terrorist group by Europe and the United States. The group has stepped up hit-and-run raids that have left dozens of soldiers and civilians dead in recent month. The skirmishes were the latest in a conflict that has seen nearly 40,000 people killed.

Turkey has complained for years that the United States has not done enough to end PKK activity Iraq's autonomous Kurdish north. The issue has enraged the Turks and moved public opinion against the United States.

The Bush administration worries that a cross-border incursion would bring instability to what has been the calmest part of Iraq and could set a precedent for other countries, such as Iran, that have conflicts with Kurdish rebels. For weeks, the Bush administration has stressed the need for a diplomatic solution between Turkey and Iraq.

Turkey Wants U.S. Help

Rice said the U.S. was considering sharing more intelligence and information with Turkey and said she had begun talking with Turkish leaders about long term solutions.

Following a meeting in Istanbul with Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Rice won a pledge that Iraq would step up efforts to fight PKK terrorism.

But Turkey was still looking for more from the United States.

"I am expecting that this trip will result with the United States ... taking solid steps," Erdogan said Saturday prior to leaving Turkey for Washington.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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