CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush will host Turkish President Abdullah Gul at the White House on Jan. 8, a meeting sure to be dominated by Turkey's incursions into Iraq.
Gul, elected in August, will be making his first visit to Washington as president.
"The president looks forward to establishing a good relationship with President Gul and discussing issues of mutual concern," Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Chief among those concerns is the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. The PKK has waged a war for autonomy in parts of Turkey for more than two decades, a conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives. Its fighters use bases in Kurdish parts of northern Iraq.
In recent days, Turkey has launched air assaults on the PKK in Iraq, incursions that came after the U.S. pledged a greater sharing of intelligence to track the PKK. Bush has personally promised such cooperation to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Yet the raids into Iraq also put Washington in an awkward position because Turkey and Iraq are both key U.S. allies. The Bush administration opposes any large-scale Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, currently one of the country's most stable areas.
Stanzel said Bush and Gul will talk about promoting peace in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and the broader Middle East. The two are also expected to review Turkey's efforts to join the European Union, which the United States supports.
Bush will meet with Gul before leaving the same day for the Middle East, with stops in Israel, the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.