ISTANBUL (Reuters) - It is not too late for Turkey’s military to carry out a full-scale cross-border operation into northern Iraq, the head of Turkey’s armed forces said.
“We are not at all too late,” armed forces chief General Yasar Buyukanit was quoted as saying by daily Hurriyet on Saturday.
Buyukanit denied any military operation into Iraq would consist of small strikes against Kurdish bases.
“A small operation cannot be carried out ... There would be military reasons and aims,” said Buykanit, according to Milliyet newspaper.
Weeks have passed since Turkey’s parliament gave the government permission to carry out an operation to attack the estimated 3,000 Kurdish rebels that use northern Iraq as a base.
Turkey, which has the second largest armed forces in NATO, has stationed nearly 100,000 troops along its border with Iraq.
Earlier this week Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said the threat of a big offensive in Iraq appeared to be lower after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan held talks with U.S. President George W. Bush.
“An operation is not carried out only for the sake of having an operation,” said Buyukanit, according to Milliyet.
Military movements in Turkey’s primarily Kurdish southeast were continuing on Saturday. Earlier in the week special forces engaged Kurdish rebels after the separatists attacked a police station in Tunceli province.
On Friday the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said it was open to political dialogue that could lead to the separatist group laying down its arms, a news agency close to the rebels reported.
Turkey, like the United States and European Union, regards the PKK as a terrorist group and has refused any dialogue with PKK guerrillas. Nearly 40,000 people have died since the PKK took up arms in 1984 to fight for a Kurdish homeland in Turkey.
Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Robert Woodward
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