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Turkey Gave ‘Ample Notification’ of PKK Strikes, Pentagon Spokesman Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2007 – The Turkish government provided “ample notification” of plans to conduct air strikes against Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq over the weekend, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters today.

Morrell disputed press reports that the United States had been left in the dark as the Turkish air force attacked Kurdistan Workers' Party – known as “PKK” -- positions Dec. 16, insisting that the notification process worked smoothly.

The Turks communicated their plans through the Ankara Coordination Center, which was set up this summer to promote intelligence-sharing between the two countries, he explained.

The United States shares with the Turks intelligence regarding the PKK, “a group that we -- as they and the Iraqis, I should point out -- regard as terrorists,” Morrell said. “So our stated goal is to share intelligence about PKK holdouts and operations.”

Morrell declined to say if the United States provided the intelligence that led to the weekend attacks.

He emphasized ongoing efforts to improve coordination between the two countries, citing top-level discussions between President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House on Nov. 5. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, followed up on these talks later that month, Morrell said.

But the bottom line, Morrell emphasized, is that “Turkey is a sovereign nation” and has a right to act in self-defense against the PKK. “So they don’t have to seek our permission,” he said. “We have a cooperative relationship with this old and close ally. … There is coordination, there is notification, but there is not permission sought. And as far as this building is concerned, the coordination that took place was adequate.”

Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino refused to condemn a Turkish ground incursion into Iraq following the air strikes.

"We are coordinating with the Turkish and Iraqi authorities in the area,” she told White House reporters today. The PKK is a threat to Turkey, to Iraq, and to the United States, she said, “so we continue to share information, share intelligence” regarding the group’s activities.

"The Turks have moved forward with our coordination and in communication with the Iraqis in order to eradicate that threat," Perino said.

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