Istanbul, Turkey Turkey moved closer to opening a new front in the Iraq war Monday, with the government asking parliament to approve a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels. Still, its leaders were reluctant to stage an incursion that could hurt Turkey's standing with Washington.
Parliament was widely expected to authorize the Cabinet's motion seeking authorization for a military campaign in northern Iraq, and NTV television said a vote would happen Wednesday.
But government spokesman Cemil Cicek indicated the government would not immediately order its troops across the border, possibly to see whether the United States and Iraq attempt to crack down on the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government twice acquired similar authorizations from the parliament in 2003, but did not act on them.
"Our hope is that there will be no need to use this motion," Cicek said. He insisted the only target was the separatist rebel group, apparently aiming to reassure Iraq's government in Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurds, who run their own administration in northern Iraq.
"We have always respected the sovereignty of Iraq, which is a friendly and brotherly country to us," Cicek said. "But the reality that everyone knows is that this terrorist organization, which has bases in the north of Iraq, is attacking the territorial integrity of Turkey and its citizens."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he was prepared to hold urgent talks with Turkish leaders to try to defuse the potential crisis. He plans an emergency meeting today with close aides to discuss the situation on the border.
"We are fully confident that our friends in the Turkish government are committed, just as it is our wish, to bolstering and developing our bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect, nonintervention in the other's internal affairs and not allowing the harmful use of each other's territory," al-Maliki said in a statement.
U.S. officials urged NATO-ally Turkey not to send troops into Iraq and appealed for a diplomatic solution. The Kurdish self-rule region in Iraq is one of the country's few relatively stable areas and the Kurds also are a longtime U.S. ally.