General Raymond Odierno, chief of American forces in Iraq, has visited Turkey to discuss plans to cooperate in fighting rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the US military said on Saturday.
Odierno met Turkish General Hasan Igsiz, deputy chief of the Turkish General Staff, on Friday, the statement said. Their talks focused on continued assistance by US forces to Turkey in Ankara’s efforts to battle the PKK.
"The PKK is a terrorist organisation and has committed heinous crimes against the Turkish people," the statement quoted Odierno as saying.
"I’m committed to work with the government of Turkey and the government of Iraq to prevent further atrocities."
A series of PKK attacks over the past month killed dozens of Turkish soldiers and civilians, sparking public outcry and pledges from Turkish leaders to deal with the group, it said.
Odierno pledged US support in the form of technical assistance and information sharing to help its allies prevent further attacks.
"There are things we can do now, in the short-term, to help protect the lives of innocent people, and we’re committed to supporting our Turkish and Iraqi partners in this effort," Odierno said.
The Turkish army said on Friday it had killed 25 PKK rebels last week in an air strike on their hideouts in northern Iraq.
Many rebels were also wounded in the strike targeting the mountainous region of Qandil, a major PKK stronghold near the border between Iraq and Turkey, it said, without estimating the actual number of wounded.
Violence in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast escalated after an October 3 PKK attack on a Turkish military outpost on the Iraqi border which killed 17 soldiers.
Since then, Turkish warplanes have launched several attacks on rebel bases in northern Iraq.
Earlier this month parliament in Ankara also extended by one year the government’s mandate, in effect since October 17, 2007, to order cross-border military strikes against the PKK in northern Iraq.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms to fight for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed an estimated 44,000 lives.
Turkish officials believe that around 2,000 PKK rebels are holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq, where they allegedly enjoy free movement and use the area as a springboard to launch cross-border attacks.