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Kurds- Turkey crisis-latest news

1. PKK invites Turkey for dialogue Politics- Barzani to “actively participate” in finding a peaceful solution to the PKK-Turkish problem
2. Turkey confirms its troops withdrawn from Northern Iraq
3. HPG’s Statement: The total outcome of the fighting with the Turkish invading forces: 120 Turkish soldiers killed
4. Turkey ends offensive against Kurdish rebels
5. Iraqi presidency endorses execution of ‘Chemical Ali’
6. Turkish Troops Leaving N. Iraq-Withdrawal Comes a Day After Statements by Bush, Gates
7. Southern Kurdish peshmerge joining PKK to fight Turkey
8. KRG welcomes reported withdrawal of Turkish troops
9. Iraqi Chaldean archbishop seized
10. Turkey and Kurdistan
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1. PKK invites Turkey for dialogue Politics- Barzani to “actively participate” in finding a peaceful solution to the PKK-Turkish problem

March 1, 2008

IRBIL, March 1 (KUNA) — The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) invited Turkey on Saturday to hold talks to resolve their differences, while President of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Masud Barzani expressed readiness to actively contribute to finding a peaceful solution to the problem.
In a statement, the PKK said, “We express our readiness to seek a peaceful solution to the issue of Kurds in Turkey through mediation by the government of Iraq’s Kurdish Region, and we support the Region’s call for establishing dialogue.” Previous experiences and recent battles have proven that the only solution is to hold talks and to exercise diplomacy in resolving issues, it added.
On his part, Barzani expressed in a statement his readiness to “actively participate” in finding a peaceful solution to the PKK-Turkish problem, which he hoped would “end violence in the region and build better relations of cooperation and consolidate security and stability for our people.” The Turkish Army had commenced a land operation in northern Iraq on February 21 with the aim of wiping out PKK rebels. Turkish troops withdrew yesterday.
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2. Turkey confirms its troops withdrawn from Northern Iraq

29 February 2008

Turkey’s military General Staff said on Friday that its troops had returned to bases in Turkey after a major ground offensive against Kurdish PKK rebels in northern Iraq.
In a statement posted on its Website, the General Staff said there was no question of any foreign influence on the decision to withdraw. On Thursday the United States urged its NATO ally Turkey to pull its troops back from northern Iraq swiftly.
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3. HPG’s Statement: The total outcome of the fighting with the Turkish invading forces: 120 Turkish soldiers killed

Statement:

Media and Communication Center of the Kurdistan People’s Defense Forces

February 29, 2007

The total outcome of the fighting with the Turkish invading forces during the sweep attack:

Five martyrs of HPG were killed defending Kurdistan.

In the overall battle erupted between our fighters and soldiers of the Turkish army as of February 21, 2008, during the Turkish forces attempt to inter the Zab area, 108 soldiers of the Turkish army were killed by our HPG fighters. Another 12 soldiers killed during the Turkish forces withdrawal from Kurdistan-Iraq, that bring the total of Turkish soldiers killed to 120..

Turkish army has been unable to move ahead one step despite the backing of the Turkish air force warplanes, the Turkish artillery shelling and the intelligence information provided by the United States reconnaissance planes.
We declare to the public opinion that 7 of our comrades had been wounded during these confrontations. They are receiving treatment in the areas of Madya’s Defenses under the care of our Defense Forces doctors and we did not move them to any of the cities and hospitals named by the Turkish media.

Names of our Martyred fighters are:

1 – Ayhan Kaya Gazzl
Real name: Ali IŞIK
Date and place of birth: 1977 Siirt / Berwari
2 – Baran Past
Real name: Mohamed alternate
Date and place of birth: 1978 Past / Ahiloan
3 – Teuwen Inc
Real name: Ali Abbas
Date and place of birth: 1985 Inc / West Kurdistan
4 – Erdal mutiny
Real name: Aydin Yilmaz
Date and place of birth: 1980 / Diyarbakir
5 – laboured Inc
Real name: Ibrahim Ahmad
Date of entry: 1993
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4. Turkey ends offensive against Kurdish rebels

By Christopher Torchia
March 1, 2008
Washington Times

ISTANBUL — Truckloads of weary and unshaven Turkish troops returned yesterday from Iraq as Turkey ended an eight-day cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels, meeting U.S. demands for a quick campaign.
Washington and Baghdad welcomed the move, but Turkey warned that the forces would return if necessary.
A key test of the effectiveness of Turkey’s ground incursion could come in the weeks ahead with the arrival of spring, the traditional start of the fighting season of the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. In the past, guerrillas have taken advantage of the melting snows and infiltrated Turkey from bases in Iraq, and any surge in PKK attacks could trigger another tough response from the Turkish military.
Turkey’s first major incursion into Iraq for about a decade reflected the sensitive nature of its alliance with the United States, which provided intelligence to the Turkish military but sought a short campaign to preserve the relative calm of the mostly Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The troop withdrawal came a day after President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told Turkish leaders they should end the offensive as soon as possible.
“Any influence, either foreign or domestic, on this decision by the Turkish armed forces is out of the question,” the Turkish military said. “Terrorist activities in Iraq’s north will be observed in the future and no threat against Turkey from this region will be allowed.”
Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the military chief, said it was “pure coincidence” that the withdrawal was announced one day after Mr. Gates issued his appeal during a visit to Ankara, Dogan news agency reported.
“This decision was made because the operation had reached its targets,” Gen. Buyukanit said. “When the U.S. defense secretary stepped into Turkey, the withdrawal had been partly realized.”
Firat, a pro-Kurdish news agency, quoted PKK officials as saying the Turkish withdrawal was made under pressure from Kurdish militants and that it amounted to a victory for the rebels. Senior rebel commander Murat Karayilan congratulated his fighters, the agency said.
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5. Iraqi presidency endorses execution of ‘Chemical Ali’

QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer
February 29, 2008

BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq’s presidential council has endorsed the execution within a month of Saddam Hussein’s cousin, known as ”Chemical Ali,” for his role in the 1980s scorched-earth campaign against Kurds, officials said Friday. But it spared the life of two other officials amid Sunni protests that they were only following orders.
The approval by Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents was the final step clearing the way for Ali Hassan al-Majid’s execution by hanging. It could now be carried out at any time, a government adviser and a prosecutor said.
Al-Majid was one of three former Saddam officials sentenced to death in June after being convicted by an Iraqi court of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in the Operation Anfal crackdown that killed nearly 200,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas.
Al-Majid was nicknamed ”Chemical Ali” for ordering poison gas attacks that killed thousands.
The officials said the three-member presidential council agreed to al-Majid’s execution, but did not approve death sentences against the other two – Hussein Rashid Mohammed, an ex-deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces, and former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie.
The fate of the men – who are in U.S. custody – had been in legal limbo since this summer and the decision could represent a compromise to ease Sunni objections to executing al-Taie, widely viewed as a respected career soldier who was forced to follow Saddam’s orders in the purges against Kurds.
Al-Majid would be the fifth former regime official hanged for alleged atrocities against Iraqis during Saddam’s nearly three-decade rule.
Saddam, who also had been a defendant in the so-called Anfal trial, was hanged Dec. 30, 2006, for ordering the killings of more than 140 Shiite Muslims from the Iraqi city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against him.
A government adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. officials had been informed of the decision by phone and that a meeting was planned to decide when and where the execution should take place.
A senior U.S. military official said the military was aware the order had been signed, and that the date for the execution would be determined by the Iraqi government.
The other two men remain in U.S. custody but are under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi government, the official said, declining to be identified ahead of an official announcement.
Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, who said he had received word of the decision from the presidential council, said there was a legal basis for the execution of ”Chemical Ali” but not of the other two.
He said no law existed that could force the presidential council to endorse the execution of all three, so it had the prerogative to just sign off on one of the orders.
An appeals court upheld the verdicts against the three in September. Under Iraqi law the executions were to have taken place within a month. But they were put on hold after Sunni leaders including Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi launched a campaign to spare the life of al-Taie.
President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd, had also refused to sign the order against al-Taie, a Sunni Arab from the northern city of Mosul who signed the cease-fire with U.S.-led forces that ended the 1991 Gulf War.Al-Taie surrendered to U.S. forces in September 2003 after weeks of negotiations. His defense has claimed the Americans had promised al-Taie ”protection and good treatment” before he turned himself in.
Many Sunni Arabs saw his sentence as evidence that Shiite and Kurdish officials are persecuting their once-dominant minority and as a sign of Shiite influence over the judiciary, raising concerns the executions could ignite retaliatory sectarian attacks.
The case also strained relations between al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government and U.S. officials. In late November, the Shiite prime minister asked President Bush to hand over ”Chemical Ali” and the other two former regime officials.
The officials said al-Hashemi had refused to agree to the executions of the other two because he considered them career soldiers following orders.
There have been few calls for leniency, however, regarding al-Majid.
Saddam’s half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court, were hanged in January 2007.
Saddam’s former vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in Dujail but was executed in March after the court decided this was too lenient. Three other defendants were sentenced to 15 years in jail in the Dujail case, while one was acquitted.

Associated Press writer Bushra Juhi and Kim Gamel contributed to this report.
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6. Turkish Troops Leaving N. Iraq-Withdrawal Comes a Day After Statements by Bush, Gates

By Sudarsan Raghavan and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 1, 2008

BAGHDAD, Feb. 29 — Turkey announced Friday that it had pulled its troops out of northern Iraq, ending an eight-day invasion to pursue Kurdish guerrillas that raised tensions with the Iraqi government and fears of a regional conflict. The withdrawal came one day after both President Bush and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged a swift end to the offensive.
Turkish officials denied they had been pressured into ending their country’s most extensive operation in northern Iraq in more than a decade. They said they had completed their objective of weakening the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which for decades has fought for Kurdish rights and autonomy in Turkey from mountain bases in northern Iraq.
“The Turkish Armed Forces decided when to begin and end the operation on its own deliberation and its decision is not influenced from outside or inside,” Turkey’s chief of general staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, said in a statement.
It was unclear whether Turkey had completely pulled out its troops Friday. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari declared in a telephone interview that “all the Turkish troops that took part in the incursion have pulled out.”
But a senior U.S. military official expressed caution, noting that it would take time for the Turkish military to withdraw. “We’ve seen some movement of Turkish forces back to Turkey. But it’s hard to call that a complete withdrawal at this point,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A lengthy or expanded incursion risked straining relations between the Kurdish regional authorities and Iraq’s central government, the official said. Kurdish authorities had expressed deep anger at the invasion and were considering taking unilateral action against the Turks.
“Our concern is, don’t let it get messy. Keep it precise as possible,” the official recalled telling a Turkish delegation that had visited Baghdad this week. “Stay only as long as you have to. Not a day longer.”
The incursion followed 3 1/2 months of intensified Turkish sorties against PKK bases. Turkish leaders have credited the Bush administration’s agreement in November to provide more U.S. satellite imagery and other real-time intelligence with much of their success in the latest operations.
But the offensives also have put the United States between two of its allies — Turkey and the Kurds of northern Iraq. American and Iraqi Kurdish leaders have expressed concern that the Turkish incursion would convulse the north, which has been relatively stable even as violence engulfed much of the rest of Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
On Friday, Turkey’s military said it had struck hundreds of PKK installations during the eight days of air and ground attacks. Sites partially or completely destroyed included 59 antiaircraft positions, six training camps, 12 command centers and more than 300 caves and other hideouts, Turkey’s military said.
The military added that its troops had killed 230 Kurdish guerrillas and sent others fleeing the area of attack. Up to 2,000 Turkish troops had crossed the border for some phases of the operation, Turkey’s Sabah daily reported. The operation saw its fiercest fighting around PKK camps, Turkish media reported.
“Obviously, the terrorist organization cannot be neutralized completely by an operation in a single region,” Buyukanit said. But he added that the operation served to prevent the guerrillas from continuing to use the mountains of northern Iraq “as a permanent and secure base.”
political, military and strategic victory despite the casualties we suffered, and we were able to draw attention to the Kurdish case,” said Ahmed Denize, a senior PKK spokesman.
The early morning withdrawal Friday, first reported by Kurdish forces that saw Turkish troops rolling back into Turkey, came without advance notice. Turkish analysts had predicted the operation would last for two more weeks.
Many Turks, especially in western cities such as Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, strongly supported the crackdown. During some months last year, the PKK guerrillas killed more Turkish troops than Americans lost in Iraq in the same period.
In the United States, “the more casualties you suffer, the less support” for an operation, retired Gen. Haldun Solmazturk said in Ankara. “It’s the other way entirely in Turkey.”
Gates and others have stressed that military options alone cannot quell the decades-old Kurdish guerrilla movement and that Turkey must address Kurdish grievances. Turkey has long sought to assimilate the Kurds of its southeast, repressing broadcasts and schooling in Kurdish. Turkey’s current government has eased the language restrictions slightly. For its part, Turkey insists Iraq’s Kurdish leaders must begin denying the PKK its havens.
Few expect the cross-border operations to have ended. “More to come,” Solmazturk predicted.
The PKK has vowed to retaliate for the incursion. “The Turkish military forces withdrew, but we will not let this military campaign pass without punishment,” said Denize, the PKK spokesman.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, reports surfaced that Iraq’s three-member presidency council had approved the execution of Gen. Ali Hassan Majeed, or “Chemical Ali,” one of Saddam Hussein’s most ruthless henchmen. Last June, Majeed and two associates were sentenced to death for committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the Anfal operation in Iraq’s Kurdish region in the late 1980s.
But the presidency council had blocked Majeed’s execution because it would have meant also putting to death Sultan Hashim al-Taie, a highly respected former Sunni defense minister, whose execution was opposed by some top Iraqi leaders and U.S. military commanders. If Majeed’s execution orders go through, it is unclear what would happen to Taie. “The only thing I can tell you is that it’s not officially announced yet,” said Naseer al-Ani, chairman for the presidency council.
Gunmen abducted a Chaldean Catholic archbishop soon after he left Mass in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, according to an Associated Press report, the latest in what church members called a series of attacks against Iraq’s small Christian community. The gunmen killed three people who were with Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Khalid Abdul Sattar, a spokesman for the local police.
Knickmeyer reported from Istanbul. Correspondent Amit R. Paley and special correspondent Zaid Sabah in Baghdad contributed to this report.
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7. Southern Kurdish peshmerge joining PKK to fight Turkey

London (KurdishMedia.com) 28 February 2008: Two groups of the former southern Kurdistan peshmerges, known as “Peshmerga Derinekan” have joined the PKK guerrillas to fight the Turkish army currently attacking southern Kurdistan, reported Kurdish website, kurdistannet.info on Thursday.
The peshmerges have already joint the guerrillas and are fighting the Turkish army, the website added.
The peshmerges are bypassing the official Kurdistan Regional Government.
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8. KRG welcomes reported withdrawal of Turkish troops

01 Marc, -2008
KRG

The Kurdistan Regional Government welcomes the reported withdrawal of Turkish military forces from the territory of the Kurdistan Region.
We support this positive development and hope that it will be the start of a new phase in the region’s history.
The KRG reiterates that diplomacy and dialogue are the only way to finding a long term solution to the PKK problem.
The KRG confirms its readiness to strengthen relations with Turkey on the basis of friendship and neighborly cooperation, for the benefit of the entire region.
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9. Iraqi Chaldean archbishop seized

BBC NEWS:
2008/02/29

Gunmen have kidnapped the archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and killed three of his aides, his church says.
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was seized as he left a church in the eastern al-Nour district, it added.
Pope Benedict XVI deplored the kidnapping as a “despicable” crime.
Most of Iraq’s estimated 700,000 Christians are Chaldeans – Catholics who are autonomous from Rome but recognise the Pope’s authority.
Many have been targeted since the 2004 invasion by Sunni extremists groups.
In January, bombs exploded outside three Chaldean and Assyrian churches in Mosul. Several Christian priests have also been kidnapped or killed during the past five years.
‘Fervent prayer’
Archbishop Rahho had just left the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, where he had been leading afternoon prayers, when his car was ambushed by armed men, a church spokesman said.
The gunmen opened fire on the car, killing his two companions and driver, before kidnapping the archbishop, he added.
It’s a terrible time for our church – pray for us, Bishop Rabban al-Qas
Bishop Rabban al-Qas of the nearby city of Irbil said his 65-year-old colleague, who was ordained archbishop of Mosul in 2001, was “in the hands of terrorists”.
“But we don’t know what physical condition [he is in],” he told the Rome-based Catholic news service, AsiaNews.
“It’s a terrible time for our church – pray for us,” he added.
The kidnappers have reportedly communicated their demands, but these have not been made public.
The Vatican later issued a statement saying the Pope was saddened by “this despicable act” which “touches the whole of the church in that country”.
“The Holy Father asks the universal Church to join in his fervent prayer so that reason and humanity prevails in the kidnappers and Monsignor Rahho is returned to his flock soon,” it said.
The incident comes less than year after a Chaldean priest and three sub-deacons were gunned down the same church in Mosul after celebrating Sunday Mass.
The Syrian Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa, was kidnapped at gunpoint in 2005, but was released after one day without a ransom having been paid.
Christians targeted
There are an estimated 50,000 Christians in the traditionally ethnically and religiously mixed city of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest and a centre of the oil industry.
But a rise in attacks on Christians by Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 has prompted many to leave.
Last June, Pope Benedict told US President George W Bush he was deeply concerned about the plight of Iraq’s Christians as a result of the ongoing insurgency.
“Particularly in Iraq, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment,” he said.
Originally made up of members of the Nestorian Church, the traditional liturgical language of the Chaldean church is Syriac – a descendent of Aramaic, which is thought to have been spoken by Jesus and his disciples.
The church’s community in Iraq is said to be 550,000-strong and its best-known member is Saddam Hussein’s former deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz.
The Chaldean Patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, is based in Baghdad.
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10. Turkey and Kurdistan

March 1, 2008
By Peter Stitt
Kurdishaspect.com

Whilst I do not agree with everything that my brother Mr Takman says in his article What we need is Turkish – Kurdish brotherhood I think his underlying message is very sound and should be listened to and considered by all reasonable Kurds.
Here is a Turkish man who advocates that Turkey should renounce any claims on Kirkuk. That is a reasonable Turkish man who you can speak with. I also know Mr Takman from the last few months on Kurdish Aspect, sometimes we have argued, sometimes we have agreed on things, I know he is a reasonable man who respects other people in a debate and that is why he continues to read and contribute to Kurdish Aspect.
In the end, the Kurdish people will never get 100% of what they want and Turkey will never get 100% of what it wants, that is the nature of peace deals. Compromise is everything but it has to be areas of compromise in which all parties retain their dignity. Mr Takman, bringing up the issue of Kirkuk shows great compromise because I know many Turks would disagree with him. He has been courageous in even saying it on this website and I thank him for being the lovely reasonable man I already knew he was. He is not anti-Kurdish, he just isn’t. I have great respect for Mr Takman and I love the fact that he continues to read Kurdish Aspect. I was called a “traitor” by the English for helping Kurdish people in 2000 and it’s not pleasant. Mr Takman is doing a similar thing here.
Shortly, the BBC is running a radio series on how peace was achieved in Northern Ireland and I will be posting the internet link so Kurdish and Turkish people can listen to the programmes. The conflict over Ireland started hundreds of years ago and they have managed to put enemies around the same table, laughing and joking together. There is much to be learned. I think the biggest lesson of the programme will be how to compromise because both republicans and loyalists had to give up things they said were important to them in order to make peace happen. They have done it and now their economy is doing very well and the people have a good standard of living and the future looks good.