WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush, facing Turkish threats of a military strike against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, told Turkey’s prime minister that he was committed to countering the militants and offered to share intelligence with Ankara.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who met with Bush at the White House, has made clear he wants concrete action from Washington to combat the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has been launching attacks on Turkey from Iraqi soil.
“The PKK is a terrorist organization. They’re an enemy of Turkey, they’re an enemy of Iraq and they’re an enemy of the United States,” Bush told reporters after his meeting with Erdogan.
“We talked about the need to have better intelligence sharing,” Bush said. “In order to chase down people who murder people, you need good intelligence. We talked about the need for our militaries to stay in constant contact.”
He added that Erdogan had strongly urged the United States to work with Iraqi leaders to cut off money flows to the Kurdish rebel group.
So far, Ankara has been disappointed by U.S. offers of assistance, saying they did not go far enough.
Turkey has sent up to 100,000 troops to the Iraqi border, backed by tanks, artillery and aircraft. Ankara has said it may take cross-border action soon.
Erdogan is facing strong public pressure to go after the PKK after a series of attacks on Turkish soldiers in recent weeks.
Bush is worried that a major Turkish incursion into northern Iraq could destabilize a part of the country that has so far escaped much of the violence plaguing other parts of Iraq. U.S. officials also worry that Turkish action could lead to a wider crisis in the region.
Editing by David Alexander