Turkey see eye to eye on
Kurds By Jean-Christophe
PRAGUE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday wrapped up talks in Iran that
reportedly ended with agreement on cooperation against
left-wing Kurdish separatist militants.
leaving Ankara on Tuesday, the Turkish leader said he
would try to persuade Iran to list the former PKK -
known now as Kongra-Gel - as a "terrorist organization".
The Eastern Anatolia-based PKK has led a 15-year armed
uprising against Turkey that has claimed an estimated
After the arrest and trial of its
leader Abdullah Ocalan in the late 1990s, the group
officially laid down weapons and sought refuge in
neighboring Iraq and Iran. After it changed its name to
Kongra-Gel, the group in June called off the ceasefire
it had declared in 1999, accusing Turkey of not
respecting the truce.
Fighting has since been
reported almost daily in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish
provinces. The latest incident occurred on Wednesday
when militants launched an attack in Diyarbakir,
injuring a police officer and the deputy mayor in the
A few hours earlier, Erdogan
had indicated in Tehran that Turkey and Iran were
nearing an agreement on the joint fight against Kurdish
rebels. In comments made after meeting Iranian First
Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref and parliamentary
Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, the Turkish prime
minister hinted he had secured Tehran's promise to
outlaw the PKK and its successor.
asked by a Turkish reporter whether Iran had formally
agreed to list the group as a terrorist organization:
"You know that with regard to the issue of terrorism,
Iran and Turkey have decided to adopt a common stance.
[On Thursday], we will sign a memorandum of
understanding pertaining to this issue. This memorandum
will be signed in such a way that the Kongra-Gel/PKK
terrorist organization will find its place in it with
Iranian officials have not
specifically commented on the expected deal. Iran's
official Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA on Wednesday
quoted Aref as simply saying both sides are confident
security talks will lead to "good results".
Turkish commentators believe an agreement to
join forces against Kurdish fighters would - at least in
theory - represent a milestone in bilateral ties. In the
past, the two countries have blamed each other for
sheltering respective Kurdish militants, but have moved
recently to improve uneasy relations.
long suspected Iran of secretly supporting the PKK.
Tehran, in turn, blames Ankara for allegedly offering
shelter to the left-wing Kurdistan Democratic Party of
Iran and a rival group known, in short, as Komala.
Yet both capitals have moved to cooperate on
security issues. Iran earlier in July launched a
crackdown on PKK militants holed up along its border
with Turkey. Turkey's NTV private television station
reported at the time that six Kurdish fighters and 10
Iranian troops were killed in the operation. Tehran
officially admitted to the death of 10 Kurdish
peshmergas and only two of its soldiers. What prompted
Iran - which itself faces US accusations of sponsoring
terrorism - to move against the PKK is unclear.
Erdogan on Wednesday praised Tehran's new
stance: "We've seen that Iran favors the creation of a
joint platform against terrorism, whatever its origins.
With regard [to terrorism], they have paid a heavy price
in the past. So have we. We don't want to pay such a
price any longer."
Also uncertain is what joint
steps Ankara and Tehran could possibly take against
left-wing Kurdish militants. The English-language
Turkish Daily News on Wednesday quoted Firuz
Dowlatabadi, Iran's ambassador to Ankara, as saying
joint military operations would require too much
paperwork and organization to be conceivable in the near
Meanwhile, some both in Turkey and Iran
appear to be questioning Tehran's commitment to defeat
the PKK. Bahram Valadbeigi, who runs the Tehran-based
Kurdish Cultural Center, told Radio Farda on Thursday
that he believes Iran's agenda does not necessarily
coincide with Turkey's: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is
not completely against the PKK. It has always had some
limited and vague relations with it. I don't believe
Iran will take part in Turkey's plans."
Reporting on Erdogan's talks with Iran's first
vice president, the liberal Sabah daily on Thursday
struck an ironic note: "Whatever Erdogan had to say - be
it on the PKK, Cyprus, or Palestine - Aref invariably
replied: 'We agree'."