Turkey raises concern over Kurdish flag issue in Iraq

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Byline: n/a
Date: 06 September 2006

ANKARA, Turkey_Turkey expressed its concern Wednesday to U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan over the decision by the leader of the Kurdish
region of Iraq to adopt a separate flag, calling it "extremely dangerous."

Turkish leaders meeting with Annan told the secretary-general that the issue
would heighten tensions in Iraq, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Namik Tan,
said at a news conference.

"This is extremely dangerous," Tan said.

The Foreign Ministry remarks were seconded later Wednesday by Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said in an interview with CNN-Turk television that
any move by the Kurds in Iraq toward separatism created the possibility for
even more bloodshed in that unstable country.

"When something like this starts in Kirkuk," a major Kurdish-majority city
in northern Iraq, "this will continue with even greater violence. Then it
won't just be sectarian clashes, ethnic clashes will begin too," the prime
minister said.

Turkey, which shares a border with Iraq, has its own large and restive
Kurdish population and is wary of any separatist moves among Iraqi Kurds,
fearing they could encourage Turkey's own Kurdish population to join their
Iraqi counterparts in a fight for an independent state.

Turkish troops have been battling an autonomy-seeking group, the Kurdistan
Workers' Party, or PKK, for more than two decades in Turkey's mountainous,
Kurdish-populated southeast. The PKK is on the U.S. list of terrorist

Erdogan said the Iraqi leaders must preserve the territorial integrity of
their country and take action to solve the flag issue.

"Tension relating to northern Iraq must be solved by the Baghdad
government," Erdogan said. He referred to the ethnically Kurdish president
of Iraq, Jalal Talibani, as a "northern Iraqi."

Erdogan also expressed regret that Turkey did not agree to participate in
the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"We should have gone on March 1. We had to go. If we'd gone, things wouldn't
look like they do today," he said. "The region in Iraq that would have been
handed to us was clear. It was northern Iraq."

Turkey has been a staunch advocate of keeping Iraq unified following the
invasion and the bloodshed that followed.

The Kurds have gradually been carving out more autonomy in the north of
Iraq, however, as sectarian divisions elsewhere threaten to split the

The Turkish government has also been pressing the United States to crack
down on PKK rebels that are based in northern Iraq and infiltrate into
Turkey to launch attacks.

Tan said a U.S.-appointed special envoy for countering the PKK, former Air
Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, would arrive in Turkey for consultations next

Turkey is expected to appoint its own coordinator in the coming days.

Erdogan said he hoped the new appointments would create real change in the
situation with the PKK and wipe out their training camps in northern Iraq.