Gates Tells Turks They Need to Get Out of Iraq Soon
ANKARA, Turkey – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he told his Turkish counterpart on Thursday that Turkey should end its offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq as soon as possible but said the U.S. is making no threats against its NATO ally if it fails to comply.
"The United States believes the current offensive should be as short and precisely targeted as possible," Gates said after a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.
Gates said that a specific timetable for the Turks to stop their attack "did not come up during my meeting with the defense minister," but he said before flying to Turkey that withdrawal should come in a matter of days, or weeks, rather than months.
"The key is for us to make clear what our interests are, our concerns about the situation in Iraq," Gates said at a news conference with Gonul. "What is important is to serve both the interests of the United States and Turkey because I think we have shared interests.
"I think that those interests are probably not advanced by making threats or threatening to cut off intelligence," Gates added.
Gates delivered his message in a face-to-face meeting with Gonul in advance of meetings with other top Turkish officials, including the prime minister and president.
Gates said he told the defense minister that military action alone will not end the threat from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, rebels that the Turks view as terrorists.
Gonul said the Turks have no intention of disturbing civilian areas of Iraq or occupying any portion of Iraq. He said the main goal is to destroy the PKK network in Iraq and render the organization unusable. He said he believes doing that would contribute both to the security in Iraq as well as stability in the region.