WASHINGTON – President Bush asked Turkey’s leader on Monday not to invade northern Iraq and pledged to help the country battle Kurdish rebels by sharing surveillance and trying to cut off their ability to raise money.
Bush also declared the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK, a “terrorist organization” after his Oval Office meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“They’re an enemy of Turkey, they’re an enemy of Iraq, and they’re an enemy of the United States,” Bush told reporters.
Erdogan, through an interpreter, noted that his Parliament authorized a military strike in Iraq “if necessary.” He said the Oct. 17 vote was “a mandate for a cross-border operation that solely aims at the PKK. It cannot and it does not cover civilians.”
Speaking later at the National Press Club, Erdogan said Turkey has the right to defend itself, “and we are at the point of using our right emanating from international law.”
The Turkish leader also said he told Bush during their meeting that he wants a peaceful Iraq, “because their stability is our stability.”
The PKK wants a separate Kurdish state and has fought a two-decade battle to separate the area from Turkey. Turkey now has troops stationed on its border with Iraq, next to an area in Iraq controlled by the Kurds, and has been shelling PKK positions.