Gül warns Panetta on terror in post-US Iraq

Gül warns Panetta on terror in post-US Iraq

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Gül warns Panetta on terror in post-US Iraq

The terror trouble in Iraq will deal a serious blow to the internal balances of the war-torn country, President Gül (R) tells visiting US Defense Secretary Panetta in Ankara. Reuters photo

Turkey has warned the United States that war-torn Iraq’s stability will continue to be at stake unless the country is cleared of terrorist organizations after Washington withdraws its troops from the country. 

The U.S., meanwhile, has expressed its “tremendous respect” to Turkey over its role on regional issues, namely Syria, Iran and Iraq. 

“Terror is our primary concern. This terror trouble [in Iraq] will deal a serious blow to the internal balances of Iraq,” Turkish President Abdullah Gül told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Leon Panetta on Dec. 16, according to sources familiar with the talks. 

Panetta arrived in Ankara late on Dec. 15 from Baghdad and held in-depth talks with both top civilian and military officials in Ankara on the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the future of Iraq, recent developments in Arab countries, as well as the situation in Afghanistan. 

According to sources, Turkey’s priority is receiving more engagement from the U.S. in its fight against the PKK, whose headquarters are based in northern Iraq. Although U.S. intelligence units provide Turkey with real-time intelligence against the PKK, Turkey has demanded more assistance from its NATO ally to facilitate its operations against militants. 

“Our demands in the field of security have been fully conveyed to the visiting delegation,” said a source speaking on condition of anonymity. Armed drones that are known as Predators are seen as the most useful weapon in the fight against terror top Turkey’s list of demands from Washington. A recent story published in the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington was ready to sell two armed drones and had started to lobby for the sale at the U.S. Congress, which needs to approve any such transaction.

Recalling that Turkey helped the U.S. in the fight against al-Qaeda, Panetta said the U.S. would continue to assist its NATO ally in the anti-PKK fight. Panetta said he had talks with Iraqi officials on Thursday and discussed the steps Baghdad would take in ending the PKK’s presence in this country. 
“We are part of the same family,” Panetta said in response to Gül’s remarks on the terror fight, according to a written statement from the Presidency. According to sources, Panetta agreed with Gül’s depiction of Iraq’s future and vowed to continue to work with Turkey for this country’s stability. 
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. 

Gül warns on resolutions 

Another important message dispatched by Gül to Panetta was Turkey’s displeasure over the submission of resolutions targeting Turkey at the U.S. Congress. Alongside some resolutions pressing Turkey to recognize the 1915 killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide, Congress adopted a non-binding resolution slamming Turkey for failing to safeguard the country’s Christian heritage. 
“Does this approach of Congress fit with the allied relationship of two NATO countries?” Gül asked Panetta. 

Panetta: Mending ties with Israel is crucial

Panetta, meanwhile, said the mending of ties between Turkey and Israel was important alongside the issues of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring. 

The U.S. officials said regional stability required a normal relationship between Turkey and Israel, and he issued a pledge that the U.S. would do whatever it could to help the two neighbors repair their damaged ties. 

“We have actually lost confidence in Israel,” Gül said. “It has to be Israel that can best analyze the developments in the region. You had better talk to them to this end. They know very well what to do.” 
Panetta said Turkey and the U.S agreed to continue to work to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while praising the role Turkey was playing in Syria. 

The entire region is passing through a serious transformation, but there will be important opportunities for regional countries once the dust settles, Panetta said.