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Iraq: Kurdish Official Downplays Threat From Turkey --> A demonstration against Turkey's use of violence against PKK supporters in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil on April 6 (AFP) PRAGUE, July 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Fu'ad Husayn, an adviser to Kurdish autonomous region President Mas'ud Barzani, told RFE/RL Iraq analyst Kathleen Ridolfo in a July 27 telephone interview that Kurdish officials continue to push for a diplomatic resolution to Turkey's fight with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkey has threatened to take military action against PKK fighters holed up in the Qandil Mountain range along the Turkey-Iraq border unless the Iraqi and U.S. governments take steps to deal with them. Husayn said that while Kurdish officials view the Turkish threat as serious, they do not believe Turkey would launch a military incursion into Iraq.

RFE/RL: What is the situation now between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region? How does your government view this threat from Turkey?

Fu'ad Husayn: We got some information [this week] that there is some movement on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, and it seems some Turkish soldiers entered Iraqi Kurdish villages near Zakho. It is obvious that since two or three weeks [ago], the Turkish army has brought large numbers of soldiers to the Iraqi Kurdistan border. In the Turkish media also, there is a clear threat to intervene in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"If the PKK are moving on the border between Iran and Turkey, and in areas that are not controlled by neither the Turkish side nor the Iraqi side, or the Iranian what can you do with them?"

As for these threats, we are not happy about it. We reject the intervention of any foreign [troops] especially Turkish troops, in Iraqi Kurdistan. [As to] the argument that has been used [by Turkey] regarding [the need to intervene against] the PKK in the area, it is well known for everybody, especially for the Turkish authority itself, that the PKK is more active inside Turkey...not in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Having said that, we would like to have a good relationship with the Turkish government, and we are not intervening in Turkish internal affairs. At the same time, we would not like to see others intervene in the internal affairs of [Iraqi] Kurdistan.

RFE/RL: Concerning the buildup of Turkish forces along the border and their brief entry into Iraq, have any of the Turkish troops remained inside Iraqi territory, for example, at Bamarni Airport, or have they remained on the other side of the border?

A Turkish base inside the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region in April 2005 (RFE/RL)

Husayn: Most of the Turkish forces are on the other side of the border, not inside [Iraqi] Kurdistan. But still, building the military power on the border is a threat, which has been published in the Turkish media. And some members of the Turkish government threatened intervention in Iraqi Kurdistan. Of course, we are taking that seriously, and we are not happy about it.

RFE/RL: We also saw media reports this week that Iran continues to bomb Kurdish villages inside Iraq.

Husayn: It seems that a few days ago, Iran bombed some places on the border area near's obvious that in these areas there's some activities of the PKK. But it's [taking place] on the border with Iran.

RFE/RL: It's inside Iran or inside Iraq?

Husayn: The area which has been bombed by Iran is inside Iraqi Kurdistan.

RFE/RL: Turkish media reported this week that trilateral meetings were being held between the United States, Iraq, and Turkey. Some of these meetings are reportedly taking place in Baghdad. Are any representatives of the Kurdistan Region government taking part in these meetings?

Husayn: No, according to my information, no representatives of Iraqi Kurdistan [are taking part]. Anyway, [if] there will be meetings between the Iraqi government, and Turkish and American [governments], then it will be clear that the Iraqi government also rejects this [proposed] intervention in Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurdistan is part of Iraq, and any intervention in Kurdistan means an intervention in Iraq.

RFE/RL: Who is representing the Iraqi government at these meetings in Baghdad?

Husayn: That I don't know.

RFE/RL: Are Kurdish officials concerned that talks are going on in Baghdad without their participation?

Husayn: Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and we [Kurds] are also in Baghdad. Baghdad is not far away from us. I think it would be good if any kind of conflict or misunderstanding would be solved through negotiations around a table. We will support negotiations, we will support any talks.

But of course, we must be informed about the talks and the agenda must not be against the Kurds. We are part of this country; we are part of the Iraqi system. If there is any negotiation in Baghdad about the intervention...the Kurds must be there, and the Kurds must be informed about it.

RFE/RL: But as of now, Kurdish officials are not taking part in these talks?

Husayn: I can't comment on that because I don't have that information. But I didn't hear that a meeting is going on in Baghdad.

RFE/RL: This was reported widely in the Turkish press. There are also unconfirmed reports in the Turkish press this week that the United States has agreed to take action by bombing the Qandil Mountain range.

Husayn: I don't think this information is correct.

RFE/RL: So, you're not worried that the United States would take unilateral steps against the PKK without consulting the Kurds.

Husayn: No, I think one must be realistic if one knows the area...and the relationship between the U.S. and the Kurdish authorities here. I think the information which has been published in the Turkish press is not right.

RFE/RL: Right now, is the Kurdistan regional government considering taking any action against the PKK?

The Kurdish regional capital, Irbil (RFE/RL file photo)

Husayn: Where are the PKK? We are not going to have military action against anybody. There are refugees in Kurdistan; we accept refugees in our area. But we will not let, and we are not accepting, any activities [being launched] from the Kurdistan area against our neighboring countries. That is a principle for us.

But at the same time, we would not like [our neighbors] to intervene in our area. If the PKK are moving on the border between Iran and Turkey, and in areas that are not controlled by neither the Turkish side nor the Iraqi side, or the Iranian what can you do with them? It is a border area [and] it is more near the Turkish border than near the Kurdish [Iraqi] border, [more] near the Iranian border than near the Kurdish [Iraqi] border. It is just on the border.

RFE/RL: What will be the reaction of the Kurdistan regional government if Turkey launches a military campaign in the Qandil Mountain area.

Husayn: I think that's a theoretical question. We think that all these maneuvers and military [buildup] and the media campaign [by Turkey] in the end has to do with some tendency in the Turkish media and some tendency in the Turkish military to raise the question and especially [to compare it to] the situation in Lebanon, and the intervention of the Israelis in Lebanon.

I think the whole comparison is wrong, and the whole situation is different. Iraq is not at war with Turkey. The Kurds in Iraq want to have a good relationship with Turkey and with other neighboring countries. And we are not Hizballah, and Turkey is not Israel. So, the whole campaign I think is [related to] internal politics in Turkey.

RFE/RL: But the Turkish government raised this issue long before the current crisis in Lebanon erupted.

Husayn: But how can they enter [Iraqi] Kurdistan? What does it mean? Occupying the Kurdish cities? What does it mean, "intervention." It is not a realistic plan. I don't think they will do that.

RFE/RL: But as we've seen, they've already entered the Kurdish autonomous region.

Husayn: They are not in Kurdish cities. They are not here. They are on the border with Turkey.

RFE/RL: Are you confident that the Kurdistan regional government and [the central government in] Baghdad are in agreement on how to address this issue, should some kind of Turkish military campaign begin?

Husayn: I think both sides, the Kurdistan regional government and the Iraqi federal government would reject this [incursion] if it happens.

RFE/RL: Is there any kind of prepared response, other than to say, "We reject this." Will the Kurdistan regional government send peshmerga forces to respond to any incursion? Is there an agreement now in place with Baghdad as to how to respond?

Husayn: We have peshmerga forces everywhere in Kurdistan. They are in our cities; they are everywhere. So, if there was to be an attack -- by the way, we are not expecting [an attack] -- from the Turkish side.... I don't know if they will bomb some areas on the border...but an intervention from Turkey is not expected. So, it is a theoretical question, that's why I'm not answering it.
Iraq's Kurdish Region

KURDISH AWAKENING: The ethnic Kurdish region in the northern part of Iraq has struggled in recent years to reestablish its cultural and political identity after decades of oppression under the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In December, RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel traveled to this area and filed several reports:

Relative Peace Underscores Issue Of Kurdish Region's Future

Kurdish Culture Begins To Flourish In Kurdistan Region

Kurds Ponder How To Strengthen Autonomy After Elections

Irbil’s Kurds Live On A Hill Of Undiscovered Treasures

THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.