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Iraq condemns Turkish incursion

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraq's Cabinet condemns Turkish incursion in northern Iraq
  • Iraq says incursion is "unacceptable and threatens good relations"
  • Turkey has been conducting airstrikes and shelling against PKK since last fall
  • Washington concerned Turkish operation may destabilize northern Iraq
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's Cabinet on Tuesday condemned the Turkish military incursion in northern Iraq and called the operation a "violation" of its "sovereignty," the government said in a statement.

The ground incursion, which started Thursday, is targeting bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where the militants have launched cross-border attacks against Turkey.

Turkey's effort to thwart the PKK has been supported by the United States and Iraq. But American and Iraqi officials have also voiced concern that civilians would be caught in the crossfire, that the offensive would be prolonged, and the hostilities could destabilize the region in and around the Kurdish area of northern Iraq.

"The Cabinet expressed its rejection and condemnation of the Turkish military incursion, which is considered a violation of Iraq sovereignty, and demanded not to target civilians and infrastructure, and called on Turkey to withdraw its troops immediately and to refrain the military incursion," the government statement said.

The officials characterize the effort as "unilateral military action." They say it is "unacceptable and threatens the good relations between the two neighboring countries."

Iraq's Cabinet reiterated that it "understands the legitimate interests of Turkey" and underscores that it won't permit its land to be used for activities that "threaten the security and stability of the region."

Iraq stresses the importance of political dialogue in the crisis. Video Watch how the death toll is rising on both sides »

"The Cabinet emphasizes its firm desire in cooperation with Turkey and respect the agreements and the common commitments and Iraq's willingness to work through the tripartite commission or any bilateral dialogue to stop this common threat, posed by the PKK," the government said.

The tripartite commission is made up of Iraq, Turkey and the United States. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has been traveling in Asia, is expected to arrived in Turkey this week in a regularly scheduled visit.

Turkey has been conducting periodic air strikes and shelling against PKK targets since the group launched attacks on Turkey from bases in Iraq's Kurdish region last fall. The incursion launched Thursday is the first significant Turkish ground offensive into Iraq since the 2003 overthrow of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, the director of operations for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday the Turkish push did not appear to be "winding down. But at the same time, he said, "it does very clearly appear to be limited."

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"It appears to be what the Turkish military forces said they would do, of limited depth and of limited duration. We've seen nothing to contradict that so far," Ham told reporters at the Pentagon.

The United States, NATO ally Turkey and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization, and U.S. officers have been sharing "intelligence and appropriate information" with their Turkish counterparts since the raids began, Ham said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Kurdish PoliticsKurdistan Workers' PartyTurkey

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