Turk-Iraq Conflict Could End With PKK Ceasefire Turkey has massed as many as 100,000 troops along Iraq's northern border, preparing for ground action against the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK. Avoiding conflict would require the PKK to issue an unconditional ceasefire, which would calm the rhetoric.
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Turk-Iraq Conflict Could End With PKK Ceasefire

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Turk-Iraq Conflict Could End With PKK Ceasefire

Turk-Iraq Conflict Could End With PKK Ceasefire

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Turkey has massed as many as 100,000 troops along Iraq's northern border, preparing for ground action against the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK. The PKK, which wants an independent Kurdish state, has intensified forage into Turkey in recent weeks and even outright attacks, killing 12 Turkish soldiers and seizing eight. The U.S. has called on the Kurdish leadership of northern Iraq to rein in the PKK.

Qubad Talabani is the U.S. representative of the Kurdish Regional Government. He's also the son of Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq and joins us in our studios.

Thank you so much for being with us.

Mr. QUBAD TALABANI (U.S. Representative, Kurdish Regional Government; President Jalal Talabani's Son): It's a pleasure to be back here, Scott.

SIMON: The State Department's top official on Iraq, David Satterfield, was pretty blunt, and he said that Kurdish leaders - I'm going to read this quote, "turned a blind eye to what the PKK is doing," and made it clear that the U.S. wasn't pleased. Is this driving a wedge between the U.S. and the Kurdish Regional Government?

Mr. TALABANI: It's certainly raising tensions. And we are disappointed by that comment because we are not turning a blind eye to this problem. We have been the ones consistently calling for a dialogue on this issue. And we have not been party to the dialogues that has been ongoing between Turkey, Iraq and the United States.

And we have constantly called for Ambassador Satterfield's own direct engagement to bring out a Turkish interrogatives(ph) to the table so we can discuss what is feasible, what is doable and what is beyond the realm of possibilities.

The problem that we see today is that we are now distracted from the national reconciliation process in Iraq where the Kurdistan Region is heavily involved in trying to bring about the different factions in Iraq.

SIMON: But isn't that why the PKK is launching these attacks in a sense that they know that your resources are scattered and your investments in the central government of Iraq?

Mr. TALABANI: The PKK are, to some extent, based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, but we have to also remember that the majority of the PKK are actually inside Turkey. And even the Turkish prime minister made this point during some - in one of his election campaigns. And this is why ultimately taking care of the 3,000 also PKK members and associates inside Iraqi Kurdistan will not solve the larger problem.

SIMON: The Kurdish Regional Government and for that matter, the Iraqi federal government of which the elder Mr. Talabani is president, who seem to have a powerful interest in avoiding any kind of quarrel with Turkey at this point?

Mr. TALABANI: Absolutely. And the Kurds themselves, the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistan Regional Government has seen the benefits of a stable relationship with Turkey. Eighty percent of the foreign investment taking place in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq today is Turkish, and that's why we want to maintain good political relations, good economic relations and a good security relations and cooperations with the state of Turkey.

SIMON: As we speak today, Turkey has indicated that it might hold off on any ground action or anything of consequence until November 5th when the prime minister meets with President Bush. What can you see that all sides might do if they're interested in avoiding conflict, in steps they can take between now and November 5?

Mr. TALABANI: Well, we have the critical discussions between Iraq and Turkey of which the Kurdistan Region will be a part of, and we are calling on the PKK to issue an unconditional cease-fire. Once they do that, if they do that, I think this will be a positive step to calm the rhetoric and then we can see then through the trilateral and the multilateral talks what mechanisms we can get to ensure that the majority of the PKK can return to civilian life without retribution through a partial amnesty.

SIMON: Do you, at the same time, have to be careful in the Kurdish Regional Government about not stepping down too hard on the PKK?

Mr. TALABANI: We do have an issue of public opinion, but at the end of the day, we are responsible for the security of our citizens. So we have to balance this. We've strongly believe that we can reach a settlement to this problem; that the military option is not an option because of the history, because of the experience of almost three decades of war that we cannot begin the process of peace unless we start talking.

SIMON: Qubad Talabani, who is the U.S. representative of the Kurdish Regional Government, thank you very much.

Mr. TALABANI: Thank you.

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