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BorderWatch:Turkey
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No Turkish Invasion, For Now
Gul Warned US Ambassador, But Erdogan Says Not Before Election
07/10/2007 5:42 PM ET
Istanbul, TURKEY: Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul gives an opening speech during a conference of the least developed countries in Istanbul 09 July 2007.
HOCINE ZAOURAR/AFP/Getty
Istanbul, TURKEY: Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul gives an opening speech during a conference of the least developed countries in Istanbul 09 July 2007.

"Warning letter," read Monday's headline in the Turkish media, topping a sensational account of foreign minister Abdullah Gül's ominous appeal to US Ambassador Ross Wilson after a discouraging June 22 military briefing on the PKK.

Though not directly threatening unilateral intervention into northern Iraq, the harshly worded missive reportedly caused Wilson to change expression immediately upon receipt.

Sabah newspaper broke the story and re-printed the text of the letter:

"Turkey has attached a special importance to their alliance relationship with the USA and has stood by the USA in many of its military operations all over the world. However, it is observed with concern that despite all of our warnings and the proof and about the existence of the PKK in northern Iraq, the US has not taken a step against the organization. If the USA does not make a candid interference with the terrorist existence in Northern Iraq and does not provide cooperation of Kurdish groups, the stability in Northern Iraq will seriously be jeopardized. Turkey will not hesitate to do what is necessary for all the mentioned elements. Turkey's internal peace, stability, territorial integrity and life safety of its citizens are more important than anything else."

In the ensuing weeks since Gül reportedly gave the letter to the US ambassador, the foreign minister has been an increasingly bellicose critic of US and Iraqi inaction against the PKK, recently confirming that the government and military had worked out detailed plans for a cross-border operation. "If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this, we will make our own decision and implement it," he said.

The plan would require parliamentary approval, and Turkish leaders had hinted that a special session could be called, but the latest word from Ankara is that the Parliament has no intention of reconvening before the July 22 elections.

Asked Tuesday if he would reconvene Parliament to authorize military action, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Not now. We have 12 days to elections... At the moment our agenda for that period does not contain the issue of (Parliamentary) permission (for an incursion).”

But he also refused to rule out the prospect, adding, “This does not mean that it will never happen. We will not hesitate to take any required steps in this regard whenever it should become necessary. But the relevant organs and institutions have not yet reported to us regarding the steps that would make this a necessity.”

On Monday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, warned that Turkey had deployed some 140,000 troops close to Iraq’s border, which would indicate a significantly larger presence than has been publicly acknowledged.

When asked about reports that the Turkish military had massed troops along the Iraqi border, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday that it was normal for the Turkish armed forces to step up operations in southeast Turkey to counter the annual PKK springtime offensive.

McCormack said it was up to Turkey to comment on its own deployments, but added "I would steer you away from that number of troops being immediately along the border."

So despite the frenzied peak of rhetoric, it looks like the invasion question will be delayed for at least a couple more weeks. As Erdogan told Turkish television Monday: "We hope there won't be an extraordinary situation before the election. But there'll be a new evaluation after the elections."

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