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20,000 Turks Withdrawn From Iraq

April 26, 1995

Article from: Chicago Sun-Times
Article date: April 26, 1995

ANKARA Turkey said Tuesday that 20,000 more troops had withdrawn from northern Iraq, but Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said Tuesday that they were ready to return if needed in the offensive against rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party. The latest pullout leaves about 12,000 soldiers in Iraq. A brigade of about 3,000 withdrew in early April.

Analysts said Turkey was responding to Western pressure to end its offensive in northern Iraq, now in its sixth week, but had no arrangements in place to secure its borders against future infiltration from the separatist guerrillas.

“If necessary we will enter one more time with the same determination. Terrorism is the burden that the Gulf crisis left to Turkey,” Ciller told a meeting of her True Path Party. Military spokesman Col. Dogu Silacioglu told reporters that 20,000 soldiers had recently pulled out. A total of 23,000 have withdrawn since 35,000 crossed the border March 20.

“This is obviously a positive development,” State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told a news briefing in Washington.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, uses bases in northern Iraq for its separatist insurgency in southeast Turkey. Nearly 11 years of war have killed more than 15,000.

“The operations of our units . . . aimed at getting rid of the presence and effect of the terrorists in the region near our border in northern Iraq are continuing,” the colonel said in the southeast Turkish town of Diyarbakir.

The two main Iraqi Kurdish groups in northern Iraq welcomed the pullout but called on Turkey to withdraw all its troops.

Turkey is seeking an agreement between two Iraqi groups – the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – to stop the PKK from using northern Iraq as a platform for attacks on Turkey.

But the two Iraqi factions are more used to fighting each other and analysts say a security agreement is unlikely to last.

A Kurdistan Democratic Party spokesman in Ankara said a temporary cease-fire between the two factions, agreed to April 7, was holding. A Patriotic Union of Kurdistan spokesman said the two sides should negotiate a lasting peace.

Mehmet Ali Birand, a Turkish commentator, said he expected Turkey to leave a few thousand troops in the border area.

“I do not believe it will be a 100 percent withdrawal. The military does not want that. It wants at least a security belt.”

“U.S. and European pressure is so big that they had to yield to those pressures.”

A Western diplomat said it was possible some Turkish forces would remain in Iraq until the summer months.

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