DAKAR (Reuters) - Iran, Iraq and Turkey should work together to defeat Kurdish rebels while respecting each other’s territorial integrity and ensuring civilians are not harmed, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday.
Turkey launched an eight-day cross-border offensive into northern Iraq last month after it said the Iraqi authorities had failed to stop some 3,000 members of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from staging attacks on Turkish territory.
Iranian forces, which have also often clashed in Iraqi border areas with rebels from an offshoot of the PKK, reinforced Iran’s border security in the wake of the Turkish offensive apparently fearing the separatists might seek safety in Iran.
Speaking at a summit of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Senegal’s capital Dakar, Ahmadinejad said the three countries needed to work together if the PKK separatists were to be defeated.
“Iraq, Turkey and Iran should join forces to drive out the terrorists on the condition that territorial integrity should not be compromised and secondly that innocent people should not be harmed,” he said, speaking in Farsi.
Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group began its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.
Its land operation last month, aided by intelligence provided by the United States, strained relations with Baghdad, already long clouded by Turkish accusations that Iraq is not doing enough to tackle PKK rebels on its territory.
The central Baghdad government has little sway in semi-autonomous, mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani pledged support for Turkey in its fight against the PKK during a visit to Ankara which followed the Turkish offensive.
Ahmadinejad traveled to Iraq for historic talks at the start of March, making him the first Iranian president since the 1979 revolution to visit Iraq.
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Writing by Nick Tattersall