October 24, 2007 / 9:40 PM / 12 years ago

Rice set to visit Turkey next week

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Turkey next week, the State Department said on Wednesday, in a new diplomatic push to reduce tensions between Turkey and Iraq over Kurdish rebels.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 17, 2007. Rice will visit Turkey next week, the State Department said on Wednesday, in a new diplomatic push to reduce tensions between Turkey and Iraq over Kurdish rebels. REUTERS/Loay Abu Haykel

Rice would be in Turkey on November 2-3 for meetings with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Turkish warplanes and troops attacked Kurdish rebels inside Iraq this week, but Ankara has said it will hold back from any major incursion to give diplomacy a chance.

Rice told U.S. legislators she had appealed for restraint from Turkey but stressed it was Iraq’s responsibility to prevent rebels from the PKK, the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party, from using northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks into Turkey.

“We don’t see that any effort across that border by the Turks is going to help with the situation,” Rice, who spoke to Erdogan on Sunday, told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We have said to the Turks that a major incursion into Iraq is only going to cause further instability. What we have encouraged is joint work (between Turkey and Iraq),” she said.

After her visit to Ankara for meetings with government leaders, Rice is set to travel to Istanbul for a ministerial conference on Iraq, attended by Iraq’s neighbors as well as major powers.

Earlier this week, Rice said she hoped Turkey, Iraq and the United States could meet together on the sidelines of that conference to discuss how best to stop Kurdish rebel incursions into Turkey.

After visiting Turkey, Rice then go on to Israel and the Palestinian territories from November 4-6 for talks with their leaders ahead of a U.S.-hosted Middle East conference planned for later this year.

McCormack said she wanted to support talks between both sides to draw up a joint document that could lay the foundation for peace negotiations.

The United States wants the conference, set to take place in Annapolis, Maryland later this year, to kick off negotiations on a future Palestinian state.

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