Kurdish rebels released eight Turkish soldiers ahead of a Monday meeting between President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey wants Washington to promise to take steps to help rein in the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and Bush hopes to persuade Ankara to hold off on an attacking rebel camps across the Turkey-Iraq border. Turkey has massed 100,000 soldiers along the border, but the release of the soldiers was expected to ease domestic pressure for cross-border attacks.
What the commentators said
Violence won’t solve this crisis, said Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, in The Washington Post (free registration). Turkey still hasn’t neutralized the PKK within its own borders, so how can it hope to wipe out the rebels high in the mountains of northern Iraq? The only thing Turkey would accomplish by launching a cross-border offensive would be to destabilize the only secure region in Iraq.
It would also reduce Turkey’s chances of being welcomed into the European Union “to nil for the foreseeable future,” said The Boston Globe in an editorial. Politicians in Ankara know this. “Unfortunately, rationality is up against paranoia and national pride.” There will be no long-term solution until Turkey makes peace with the Kurds inside its own borders, and political leaders in northern Iraq get the PKK to lay down its guns.
This isn’t just about the PKK, said Howard LaFranchi in The Christian Science Monitor. Turkey is afraid that Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq will inspire Kurds in Turkey to demand more rights, too. But Ankara knows its relationship with the rest of the world is at stake, and Bush knows that he must use the White House meeting with Erdogan to repair “relations with a crucial ally estranged by the war in Iraq.”