Turkey Summons U.S. Ambassador on Remark

AP Wire Service

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador Friday to explain a reported reference by the U.S. official in charge of rebuilding Iraq to a northern Iraqi city as Kurdish.

Turkish media reported that retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner had characterized Kirkuk as a “Kurdish city” during talks in northern Iraq earlier this week.

Ambassador Robert Pearson told reporters he discussed the issue with officials at the foreign ministry Friday. Pearson said he did not know if Garner had made such a statement, but reiterated U.S. assurances that the city, that sits in one of the world’s richest oil regions, would not fall into the hands of any one ethnic group.

“All the cities of Iraq and all the resources of Iraq are for the people of Iraq,” Pearson said.

Turkey has ties with the ethnic Turkmen in Iraq. They also call Kirkuk home. Turkey also fears that Iraqi Kurdish groups could try to seize control of the oil rich area and use the resources to fund an independent Kurdish state.

Turkey fears a Kurdish resurgence in northern Iraq could encourage Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey to revive a 15-year war for regional autonomy.

Kurds, who have never had their own country, live in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

On Friday, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also dismissed a report that U.S. forces caught a Turkish special forces team trying to sneak into Kirkuk.

Time magazine reported Thursday on its Web site that a dozen Turkish soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes and trailing an aid convoy, were detained the day before by the U.S. Army and found to have AK-47 automatic rifles and nightvision goggles.

“Unless you hear these (reports) from us, don’t believe them,” the semiofficial Anatolia news agency quoted Gul as saying.

Kurdish fighters moved into Kirkuk and nearby Mosul during the war — a move that prompted speculation about a possible Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. But Turkey has so far expressed satisfaction with U.S. assurances in the region.