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Iran: Security Talks With Turkey Result In Vague Promises

By Charles Recknagel and Rod Shahidi

Prague, 13 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Turkey and Iran held three days of meetings in Ankara ending yesterday to discuss security issues. The meetings aimed to lower tensions between the two sides which soared last month when Tehran accused Turkey of bombing sites near a Kurdish-inhabited village in Iran, killing five people.

RFE/RL Persian Service correspondent Rod Shahidi spoke yesterday with Alan Makovsky, an expert on Turkish affairs at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C., to ask him what he felt would be the long-term effect of the talks. Following are excerpts from the interview.

Our correspondent asked Makovsky if he felt the security talks would have a positive outcome. The analyst said he was optimistic they would.

"There probably will be a positive outcome because neither side really wants to see tension, so probably some sort of agreement will be signed. But from Turkey's point of view the real issue is whether any agreement which comes out of the meeting will actually be implemented. Since 1984, there have been a number of mutual security agreements signed between Iran and Turkey and they have not been implemented, at least, none of them for very long have been implemented."

In the run-up to the Ankara meetings, Turkey repeatedly said it would take up with Iran what it has called Iran's support for Turkish-Kurd rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey has accused Tehran of letting the PKK maintain bases in northwestern Iran and demanded Iran oust the group from its territory. Iran has denied providing any support to the PKK.

Our correspondent asked Makovsky to detail the differences between the Turkish and Iranian sides in their dispute over the PKK. Makovsky replied:

"The issue is not so much whether there is any PKK action from the Iranian border, I think the Iranians themselves have implicitly admitted that over the years when they have signed mutual security agreements. The issue is whether the Iranians are aware of it, whether they can stop it, whether they, in fact, actively support it. For a long time, the Turks seemed to be willing to accept the idea that Iran simply could not control its border in certain areas. But Turkey is no longer in a mood to accept that kind of excuse. The Turks really believe that Iran is actively supporting the PKK as a way to undermine Turkey and the Turks, in turn, feel themselves becoming stronger and are less inclined to simply accept that kind of use of terrorism by their neighbors."

Finally, our correspondent asked what effect last week's call by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan for the PKK to withdraw from Turkey by September 1 will have on the Turkish-Iranian dispute. Makovsky said:

"Turkey is probably not going to merely accept passively a PKK withdrawal to Iran and Iraq. Turkey is going to want to stop these guys before they can withdraw and, failing that, they are going to ask their neighbors -- the KDP (the Iraqi-Kurd Kurdistan Democratic Party in northern Iraq), on the one hand, and the Iranians -- to try to prevent the withdrawal from happening. So, that has added just on the eve of these meetings last week, when Ocalan made this call, this has presented a new and very sensitive issue in Turkish-Iranian relations.