Bush pledges support for Turkey after meeting with PM

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

President George W. Bush meets with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Oval Office on November 5, 2007.

On Monday, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official state visit to the United States. During his visit, he met with President George W. Bush in the White House for talks that centered on the Turkey-PKK conflict and the Iraq War.

Turkey is concerned about attacks by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that originate from within the borders of Iraq. There have been cross-border clashes between Turkey and the PKK. Turkey has threatened a major incursion, something the US seeks to avoid, as it could upset the relative calm in northern Iraq. The PKK has been listed as a terrorist organization by a number of countries and organizations. The PKK's goal has been to create an independent socialist Kurdish state in a territory which it claims as Kurdistan, an area that comprises parts of south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Iraq, north-eastern Syria and north-western Iran.

After the meeting, Bush said of the PKK that "they are an enemy of Turkey, they are an enemy of Iraq, and they are an enemy of the United States." He pledged additional intelligence to help Turkey, an offer that was also made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, during her Middle East tour.

We talked about the need to have better intelligence-sharing. In order to chase down people who murder people you need good intelligence. And we talked about the need for our military to stay in constant contact. To this end, the Prime Minister and I have set up a tripartite arrangement, for his number two man in the military to stay in touch with our number man and General Petraeus.
— George W. Bush

Bush further offered mutual military assistance with both Turkey and Iraq to fight the PKK. "We want to work in a close way to deal with this problem," he said.

Erdogan mentioned during the post-meeting news conference that the Grand National Assembly of Turkey has already authorized military action in Iraq. He did not, however, say whether such action would be imminent.

There is a lot of difficulty in the region in general. And I believe that it falls to us, it's a responsibility for us as strategic partners to work to ensure that we overcome these difficulties and solve them. I have also seen that the President and I agree on these points, and I'm very happy to see that.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Neither leader indicated to what level, if any, that direct military cooperation would exist.

Ali Babacan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Turkey, was last week not so impressed by Rice's offers. "We are at the point where words have been exhausted and where there is need for action," he said on Friday.

"The Bush administration would like to just kick this can down the road," said Bulent Aliriza, a political observer for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The problem is, the can has been kicked down the road to the point where now it can't be kicked anymore."