Tripartite anti-terror meeting set for Ankara

Turkish, Iraqi and US officials will convene in Ankara next week to discuss measures to counter the outlawed PKK. The meeting comes on the heels of Turkish PM Erdoğan’s announcement of a Kurdish plan. But officials say the talks were scheduled long ago and have nothing to do with the Kurdish plan

Turkey, Iraq and the United States will hold tripartite talks Tuesday in Ankara to discuss ways to keep the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, from using northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish territory, a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Turkish Daily News & Economic Review.

Turkey and Iraq will be represented by their interior ministers and the United States by one of its top commanders in Iraq, said the same official, who requested anonymity. He declined to identify the U.S. representative.

Turkish, Iraqi and U.S. officials last met in April in Baghdad as part of efforts to boost cooperation against the PKK. Turkey has launched strikes against the PKK camps in northern Iraq through intelligence sharing provided by Washington following the 2007 meeting of the Turkish prime minister and then U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House.

The anonymous official said, without elaborating, that security issues would top the tripartite talks in Ankara but added that the meeting was scheduled long ago and it had nothing to do with the government’s Kurdish plan.

Ankara has been seeking nonmilitary means to counter terrorism, boosting ties with Iraq in all spheres under a new cooperation mechanism, and taking steps at home to improve cultural rights of the Kurdish population in southeastern Anatolia. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the government was working on a plan to resolve the Kurdish problem.

“This is a matter that we’ve been dealing with since we came to power… I will not speak about its name or title. No matter if you call it the ‘Kurdish problem,’ ‘Southeast problem,’ or ‘Kurdish opening’ we have initiated a study,” Erdoğan said.

Makhmour camp

In light of frequent media reports in recent weeks over the future of a United Nations refugee camp in northern Iraq, the Turkish official said the issue would not appear on the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting because “its discussion requires involvement of the U.N. refugee agency,” referring to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR.

The reports claimed that the Makhmour camp will temporarily accommodate the PKK members after they are convinced to lay down arms.

“Makhmour is a problem that concerns refugees. If a solution is to be found, it must be based upon voluntary repatriation and the involvement of UNHCR,” Metin Çorabatır, UNHCR spokesman for Turkey, told the Daily News.

He said if the Makhmour camp was to be discussed at tripartite talks in Ankara, the UNCHR was willing to be present, adding that Turkish officials only took note of his request but did not respond.

Turkey, Iraq and UNHCR reached a “broad agreement” in 2004 at a meeting in Ankara, also attended by the United States as an observer, but it did not go into force. The parties concerned held tripartite talks in Geneva in 2007 to formulate a sustainable solution for refugees in order to be able to close down the camp. No meeting has taken place since then.

Turkey says the camp is used by the PKK for logistical, rehabilitation and recruitment purposes. The UNHCR does not rule out the PKK’s political supervision over the camp but says it is a civilian camp housing 11,000 refugees.

“A solution model that excludes the UNHCR and voluntary repatriation is against international principles. A forced displacement cannot be accepted,” Çorabatır said.