Gates Pressures Turks on Iraq Offensive

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CBNNews.com - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he told the Turkish Defense Minister on Thursday that Turkey should end its offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

"The United States believes the current offensive should be as short and precisely targeted as possible," Gates said after a meeting with Vecdi Gonul, Turkey's Defense Minister.

Gates said that a specific timetable for the Turks to stop their attack "did not come up during my meeting with the defense minister."

"The key is for us to make clear what our interests are, our concerns about the situation in Iraq," Gates said at a news conference with Gonul. "What is important is to serve both the interests of the United States and Turkey because I think we have shared interests.

Gonul said the Turks have no intention of disturbing civilian areas of Iraq or occupying any portion of Iraq. He said the main objective is to tear down the PKK network in Iraq and render the organization useless. He said he believes doing that would contribute both to the security in Iraq as well as stability in the region.

"Turkey's government should make clear to the Iraqi government and everyone concerned exactly what their intentions are and the limited goals and scope of their operations," Gates said. "I believe there is a growing appreciation of the complexity of the situation of balancing the right of Turkey to defend itself with the need to maintaining Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Turkey, Gonul said, would cease its operation once its goals had been reached.

Gates urged Turkey to engage in talks with Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish leaders.

"The key for all parties is transparency, cooperation and communication," Gates said.

Prior to arriving in Ankara, Gates told reporters traveling with him that by "quick" action, he meant "days" or "a week or two" - not months.

The Iraqi government has demanded that Turkey immediately withdraw from northern Iraq, warning Tuesday that it feared an ongoing incursion could lead to clashes with the official forces of the semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Turkish fighter jets, helicopters and hundreds of commandos streamed across the border into Iraq Wednesday despite the Iraqi and American calls to swiftly end the operation.

Gates was winding up an eight-day, four-country trip with his stop in Turkey and was returning to Washington later Thursday.

Source: The Associated Press

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