Turkey denies US pressure to end Iraq incursion

March 3rd, 2008 - 12:32 am ICT by admin  

Ankara, March 2 (DPA) Turkish President Abdullah Gul Sunday said the decision to call an end to Turkish military operations against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq was in no way taken under pressure from the US. “I can tell you with total sincerity that the American (position) had no affect on the decision,” Gul said.

Asked about the surprise timing of the withdrawal, less than 24 hours after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates left Ankara Thursday after he seemingly failed to get Ankara to give a definite timetable for the return of Turkish troops, Gul said it was normal to keep that sort of decision secret.

“It is rather normal for these types of operations to be surprising. You don’t start an operation by announcing it to everyone, nor do you announce soldiers leaving, nor do you announce if they enter again,” Gul said, addinng that to make such decision public would put Turkish soldiers in danger.

Gul’s statement came as Turkish troops continued mopping up operations in northern Iraq following the announcement Friday that the land forces operation had finished.

The private NTV television station reported that while the vast majority of troops had returned to Turkey, some were conducting search and reconnaissance missions and were involved in clearing mines.

NTV reported that troops were closely watching points from which Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters launch attacks inside Turkey.

The Turkish general staff Friday announced the end of the incursion saying the operation had achieved its objectives.

The announcement came just a day after Gates held talks with Turkish leaders and urged a quick end to the operation. President George W. Bush also made the call in Washington at a press conference Thursday.

Turkey had launched “Operation Gunes” on the night of Feb 21, with some 10,000 soldiers sent across the border to seek out PKK rebels and their camps.

According to the Turkish military, 240 PKK fighters, 24 Turkish soldiers and three state-employed village guards were killed in the operation.

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