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Turkey May Clear Part of 'Buffer Zone'

Middle East: Ankara's plans for security area in northern Iraq could involve displacing some residents.

September 08, 1996|From Times Wire Services

ANKARA, Turkey — The government here said Saturday that it may clear some settlements from a "buffer zone" it plans to create in northern Iraq to prevent infiltrations by separatist Turkish Kurdish rebels.

"Settlements in the buffer zone to be created may be partially emptied because of the terrorists, but not generally," Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller was quoted by the state-run Anatolian News Agency as saying, referring to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas who use northern Iraq as a launch pad for attacks on Turkey.

Turkish troops have been massing on the porous border with Iraq in apparent readiness to push against the PKK, but army officials would not confirm or deny Turkish news reports that troops had already mounted some cross-border attacks.

A Foreign Ministry official said Ankara wants to empty some border settlements to ensure that civilians would not be caught up in fighting and would be unable to give refuge or support to the PKK. He did not say how they could be emptied or how many settlements Ciller was talking about.

Also Saturday, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in London to meet with Israel's foreign minister, David Levy, gave Turkey the green light to create the buffer zone against Kurdish attacks.

"We understand their reason for doing so," Christopher said. He stressed that the zone along the border should be very thin and temporary.

"The Turks have genuine reasons to be concerned about their border and the PKK," Christopher said. He also praised Turkey for supporting the United States in keeping the skies over northern Iraq free of Iraqi warplanes.

Meanwhile, the 15 European Union foreign ministers, meeting Saturday in Tralee, Ireland, condemned Baghdad for moving into the Kurdish enclave in its northern territory but remained divided over last week's retaliatory U.S. missile attacks. The EU officials also urged Turkey to respect Iraq's "territorial integrity," said French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette.

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