Turkey must limit its military raids against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq to days or a couple of weeks rather than months, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday. Gates, who is due to meet Turkish officials in Ankara on Thursday, stated Turkey should not rely on military action alone in dealing with members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but also find ways to improve economic and social conditions.
"It's very important that the Turks make this operation as short as possible and then leave, and to be mindful of Iraqi sovereignty," Gates told reporters in on Wednesday before leaving for Ankara. "I measure quick in terms of days, a week or two, something like that. Not months," he said, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, a senior Turkish envoy arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday to hold talks with Iraqi officials about the on-going operation, an Iraqi government source said. Ahmet Davutoglu, chief foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, met Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. On Tuesday, Iraq condemned Turkey's incursion into northern Iraq and demanded an immediate end to what it called a violation of its sovereignty.
"Our objective is clear, our mission is clear and there is no timetable until...those terrorist bases are eliminated," Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference after talks in Baghdad with Zebari, adding the incursion will be "limited". "We condemn the terrorists and the PKK, but we also condemn the violations of the sovereignty of Iraq at the same time and we have to be very clear on that," Zebari said.
On its part, Turkish army on Wednesday said in a statement five more Turkish troops were killed in heavy fighting. Turkey's fatalities now rose to 24. On Wednesday Turkish warplanes bombed hide-outs of PKK activists in mountainous area in Siladze region, the official Anatolian Agency reported.