ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey expects the U.S. to act against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq but will take its own measures if it sees no results in the fight, the prime minister said.
In northern Iraq on Saturday, thousands of Kurds packed the streets of a border city to protest a threatened Turkish incursion and to warn they would defend their territory.
Turkey has threatened to cross the Iraqi border to try to wipe out Kurdish rebel bases, arguing it has the right to fight terrorism. The United States and Iraq oppose such unilateral action, fearing it could destabilize northern Iraq, the most stable part of the country.
“We have expectations mainly from the U.S. more than Iraq. We want the coalition forces – mainly the U.S. – to take a step here,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with the private Kanal 24 TV channel late Friday.
“Our demands from them are known and we will see what happens in time,” Erdogan said. “We will put into action our own road map if we do not get the results we want.”
Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, operate from bases in the mountains of northern Iraq and periodically cross the border to stage attacks in their war for autonomy for Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict that began in 1984.
The Turkish government secured an authorization from parliament Wednesday to launch a military campaign into Iraq to stamp out the rebels. Turkish leaders have said publicly that they would prefer a solution to the guerrilla problem that avoids a cross-border offensive, but Erdogan has warned that Turkey will take whatever steps it must to defeat the PKK.
Erdogan said he hoped to reach a consensus with Washington regarding a possible military campaign into northern Iraq during his trip to the U.S. next month.
Protesters in the northern Iraqi city of Zakho accused Turkey of trying to foment unrest in the relatively peaceful autonomous region in northern Iraq.
The demonstrators waved the flag of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region – a yellow sun against red, white and green stripes.
Hussein Khalid, the mayor of Zakho, some 300 miles northwest of Baghdad, estimated the crowd at about 15,000 people.