The European Commission urged Turkey on Friday to play a "constructive" role in Iraq a day after Turkey's army chief called for a military incursion into northern Iraq to hunt Turkish Kurd rebels.
Turkey has been clamping down on Kurds and PKK supporters at home and abroad
"The stability of Iraq is in our common interest," Commission spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy told reporters in Brussels. "The EU recognizes the constructive role Turkey plays in the area and in this context it is important that Turkey continues to play such a positive role," she added.
"The EU is following the situation in the region very closely," said Nagy. "Our hope and the interest of all involved is that possible differences are dealt with in a peaceful and constructive manner."
In a rare press conference at the army headquarters, General Yasar Buyukanit pushed on Thursday for a cross-border operation into northern Iraq to crack down on Turkish Kurd rebels he said had sought refuge there.
General Buyukanit said that it was necessary to launch a cross-border military operation against PKK rebels based in northern Iraq there, but that this would require political authorization. "It is necessary to launch an operation into Iraq," Buyukanit told reporters. "The PKK has huge freedom of movement in Iraq."
Missions within Turkey target returning fighters
Turkish troops in northern Iraq in 2005
He also said the military had launched a number of large-scale operations against Kurdish rebels in south-east Turkey. Buyukanit said the operations had been launched as snow melting in mountain passes made it easier for PKK rebels to enter Turkey from neighboring Iraq.
Turkey has accused Iraqi Kurds of tolerating, and even backing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody campaign for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey's southeast since 1984. The conflict has claimed some 37,000 lives. The Turkish military has claimed there are around 5,000 PKK guerrillas based in camps in mountainous northern Iraq.
Ankara says thousands of militants of the PKK enjoy unrestricted movement in northern Iraq and are able to obtain weapons and explosives there.
The group is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community.
Iraqi Kurds taking threats very seriously
The Kurds in northern Iraq are taking the threats by the Turkish army to launch a military offensive against Kurdish rebels seriously, the president of the autonomous Kurdish parliament said Friday.
The military has clashed with rebels in southern Turkey
Adnan al-Mufti told reporters in Arbil, northern Iraq that "these threats are nothing new for us, we take them seriously." He said the authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq would seek the support of the Iraqi government.
"We want a dialogue, but those responsible in Turkey are not ready for one," al-Mufti added.
When asked why the Kurdish authorities, who control three provinces in northern Iraq, have not taken action against PKK rebels, al-Mufti said that "the situation in Iraq is altogether too unstable; therefore we cannot take steps against this party."
The Turkish government has repeatedly called on the United States and Iraq to launch its own operations against the PKK in northern Iraq. The organization is black-listed as a terrorist organization by both the US and the EU.
On Friday the president of the Iraqi parliament Mahmoud al- Mashhadani warned that all those foreign powers that had a hand in Iraq's internal affairs would have "the hand hacked off."
Observers interpreted this statement as referring to the Turkish military threats to intervene in northern Iraq.