WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday called on the Iraqi government to take “swift” action to stop Kurdish rebel attacks on Turkey and said it did not want to see the conflict widen along that border.
The United States has stressed to the Turkish, Iraqi, and Kurdish leadership that the cross-border attacks must stop, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
Turkey said eight of its soldiers were missing after clashes with Kurdish rebels near the Iraqi border in which at least 12 soldiers were killed.
“We want the Iraqi government to take swift action to stop the activity of the PKK,” Fratto said. He condemned the attacks and called the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist organization.
“We do not want to see wider military action on the northern border,” Fratto said.
He called it a good sign that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was moving on the issue but said Washington wanted to see action quickly. “The PKK must stop these attacks,” he added.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that he expected the United States to take “swift” steps against the Kurdish rebels, many of whom are based in northern Iraq.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Erdogan and Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani on Sunday to make it clear that the United States opposed any unilateral action, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
She promised Erdogan that she would push the Iraqis to do more to fight the PKK, he said. “We think it’s incumbent upon the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government to act,” McCormack said.
Turkey has deployed as many as 100,000 troops, backed by tanks, F-16 fighter jets and attack helicopters along its border with Iraq in anticipation of a possible incursion.
The United States and Iraq have called on Turkey to refrain from a military push into the largely autonomous Kurdish region, one of the few relatively stable parts of the Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Sue Pleming