Pace Addresses Turkish Concerns About Neighboring Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey, Mar. 24, 2006 Turkey is in a tough neighborhood, and the questions Turkish reporters raised to Marine Gen. Peter Pace in Ankara today showed that concern.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to reporters before coming here today. Pace was one of the keynote speakers at the Global Terrorism and International Cooperation Symposium sponsored by the Turkish General Staff.
Turkish reporters expressed concern about sectarian violence in Iraq and the possibility of a civil war in that neighboring country. Pace called the bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra that touched off the violence in February a "hideous act of terrorism against a very holy shrine." He said those who planned it - and Pentagon officials believe al Qaeda in Iraq was behind the attack - wanted to touch off a civil war, Pace said.
"The Iraqi people looked at that, walked up and looked at what civil war would look like, and I believe have made the decision that they do not want civil war," the chairman said.
He told reporters that Iraqi religious and political leaders have all called for calm and the Iraqi military and police are providing security in the country.
"So although the ingredients for civil war were present, the Iraqi people clearly have chosen the path of peace and prosperity in the future as opposed to fighting each other," he said.
Pace said the United States is working closely with Turkish and Iraqi officials to end the operations of the PKK, a terrorist organization that has killed thousands of Turks since it was founded in 1977. The group wants an independent Kurdistan that would encompass territory in Turkey and northern Iraq.
Pace said he could not give concrete details on the cooperation because of security reasons. "We are committed to addressing the PKK problem," he said. "In northern Iraq, before we can tackle (the PKK problem) we must have stability for the government in Iraq. That means the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi police providing security for their own government and for their own people so that a sovereign Iraq government can work with Turkey and my government to address the PKK problem up north."
Pace later traveled here to speak to the Turkish War Academy.