Turkish, US anti-PKK envoy mechanism effectively over

Sunday, October 07 2007 @ 10:22 am UTC

A US decision in 2006 to appoint a special envoy for coordinating US efforts against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) led to high hopes in Turkey that Washington was finally taking Turkish complaints over the PKK presence in Iraq seriously, but slightly more than a year after the appointment, the mechanism has virtually collapsed without any visible outcome in the fight against the terrorist group. The US State Department confirmed this week that retired Gen. Joseph Ralston has discussed his resignation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but gave no details about the content of the discussion. Ralston's Turkish counterpart, retired Gen. Edip Başer, was already sacked by the government in May, after he publicly questioned effectiveness of the mechanism in dealing with the PKK threat. Ralston talked to Başer's successor, career diplomat Rafet Akgünay, only once on the phone, and this was just to share greetings following Akgünay's appointment to the post.
The envoys were not involved late last month when Turkey and Iraq signed a counterterrorism deal targeting the PKK presence in northern Iraq. That absence, analysts say, was the last nail in the coffin of the special envoy mechanism and shifted the attention to Iraq and away from the United States in the fight against the PKK. Ankara is now considering ways to convince the Iraqi side to agree to allow Turkey to pursue PKK terrorists across their common border, after Turkish officials' efforts to include a provision to that effect in the counterterrorism agreement failed during talks with the Iraqi delegation.

Turkey has been pressing the United States and Iraq to take action to eliminate the PKK presence in northern Iraq and has stated in the past that it would take matters into its own hands if its warnings are not heeded. The appointment of Ralston came as a step apparently aimed at appeasing Turkey, but during their joint work, Başer and Ralston have failed to announce any visible steps to counter the PKK threat, prompting Başer to declare the mechanism ineffective.

On Wednesday, US Ambassador Ross Wilson admitted that Turkey's friends, including the United States, are not doing all that they should to help Turkey in its fight against terrorism, citing the latest attacks in the southeastern province of Şırnak that killed 12 people and in the Aegean province of İzmir that killed one as evidence. The admission, however, left unanswered the question of whether the US has any plans to introduce a new step to compensate for the failed mechanism of special envoys in the anti-terror fight.

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