Wolfowitz: We will Completely Remove Kurdish Group From Northern Iraq

Turkish Daily News

ANKARA – U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz made important gestures to Turkey on Thursday in an interview with private CNN- Turk TV channel, soothing Turkish fears over PKK existence and Iraqi Kurdish leader’s ethnicity-based federation claims in Iraq.

Paul Wolfowitz responded to questions from Mehmet Ali Birand and Cengiz Candar in an interview on CNN-Turk’s Manset program.

Underlining that the PKK is a terrorist organization and that Turkey has long suffered from this organization which orchestrated several attacks in Turkey, Wolfowitz noted that the PKK will no longer remain in northern Iraq and that they are determined to clear the PKK completely from northern Iraq.

Dismissing the PKK’s recent move of a name change, Wolfowitz said, “We won’t let them behave as a different organization by changing their name.”

The terrorist group, known until 2002 as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and then as the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK) announced last November that it was dissolving to be replaced by a broader body, called KONGRA-GEL that would seek a peaceful solution with Turkey.

Turkey and the United States had rejected the move, claiming it was a mere name change.

‘Federation but not along ethnic lines’
Wolfowitz made assurances that would convince Turkey that no federation based on ethnicity will be established in Iraq.

Asked whether the U.S. shared Turkish concerns over recent claims by Iraqi Kurdish leaders on establishment of an ethnicity-based federation, Wolfowitz said that a federation system is inevitable for Iraq especially when the history of Iraq is considered, adding such a federation should be based on administrative and geographical lines, not along ethnic elements.

“We are in complete agreement with Turkey on the issue.”

” … If we open a new page … such a Turkey should a country that does not approach the situation in northern Iraq with skepticism. This does not mean, ‘We don’t care about America’s needs,’ or ‘Iran and Syria are our neighbors, no matter what.’ We can participate in Iraq’s liberation process, which is the most important project of this century and in the world at the moment. If we can achieve this goal by working together, I assure you not only will the damage be repaired, but also all existing damage will be completely removed,” said Wolfowitz.

Turkey fears that the Iraqi Kurds are pushing for a federal system in Iraq that will eventually pave the way for them to establish an independent Kurdish state. Turkey opposes any federal structure for Iraq based on ethnicity or religion.

‘Strategic partnership changed’
Asked what has changed regarding the U.S.-Turkey relationship and whether it is possible to say that everything has been forgotten and a new page is opening, Wolfowitz noted that neither forgiving Turkey nor forgetting what was done in the past interested them, adding the future of the region and the whole of the Middle East was important to them and in this sense the partnership between Turkey and the U.S. should continue.

U.S. relations with Turkey were strained after the Turkish Parliament rejected to allow in U.S. troops last year.

Noting that U.S.-Turkey relations have entered a new era, a Bush administration’s influential member said the strategic partnership between the two countries used to be dependent only on military cooperation, however from now on the basis of the strategic partnership will comprise of issues like democracy and secularism.

Turkey is perceived by the U.S. as a strategically important nation, a link between Europe and the Middle East and as a secular, democratic state being NATO’s only Muslim member.

Wolfowitz said that Turkey with its democratic structure has a very important place in their Middle East project.

Praise for Turkey’s Cyprus push
In addition to assurances on Iraq and the PKK existence, Wolfowitz praised Turkish steps on the way for a settlement on Cyprus.

Calling Turkey’s recent initiatives for a settlement on Cyprus “very encouraging,” Wolfowitz said there was still an opportunity to reach a solution on Cyprus and that every one would benefit from such a development.

Wolfowitz said Turkey displayed the greatest efforts it could on the Cyprus issue.

Turkey recently called for resumption of negotiations on a plan proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in an attempt to reunify Cyprus which is scheduled to join the European Union on May, 1. If the island is not reunited by then, the benefits of the EU will only apply to the Greek speaking part of Cyprus and Turkey’s own chances to enter the EU will be jeopardized.

“We are now closer to a solution,” said Wolfowitz.