Tensions mounted along the Iraqi-Turkish border on Monday as the Turkish government sought parliamentary approval for military raids into northern Iraq. The vote in Parliament would permit Turkish armed forces to cross the border in pursuit of Kurdish rebels who launch attacks into Turkey from Iraqi Kurdistan.
The rebels, members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, have taken refuge in mountain redoubts on the Iraqi side of the border. They are separatists who want an autonomous Kurdish region in the far eastern part of Turkey.
The Iraqi government urged Turkey on Monday to seek a diplomatic solution. Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki called for his top advisers to meet Tuesday to discuss the developments. He also called on Turkey to allow more time for a security committee made up of Iraqis, Turks and Americans to work toward a solution.
The Iraqi government will look at every possible way to solve the crisis with Turkey, Maliki said in a statement.
“We will never accept a military solution to the differences between Turkey and Iraq,” he said, adding that he was committed to stopping the PKK attacks.
“With our understanding of the worries of the Turkish friends, we are ready to undertake urgent negotiations with senior Turkish officials to discuss all points of disagreement,” he said.
The two countries signed a security agreement last month to work together to combat violence by the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. But the accords specifically denied Turkey the right to cross into Iraq, even in cases of “hot pursuit.”
Kurds in northern Iraq have been generally sympathetic to the separatist aspirations of the rebels and unmoved by pleas from the central government to restrain them.
The Turkish Parliament is expected to vote Wednesday and approve the motion, which would authorize the Turkish military to make as many entries across the Iraqi border as necessary for one year. The raids would be aimed solely at the PKK, said a government spokesman, Cemil Cicek, in a televised news conference.
The authorization request for raids was prompted by intensified PKK attacks in recent weeks, including the deadliest day in the conflict in recent months.