Cheney discusses terrorism, Iran with Turkey’s PM

Visiting US Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday held talks with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program, Anatolia news agency reported.

During their talks, Cheney and Erdogan discussed Washington’s cooperation in Turkey’s fight against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq.

The US shares real-time intelligence with Turkey, its NATO ally, in its fight against rebels of the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), who use bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks against Turkey.

Turkey has been fighting with the PKK, which took up arms against the country in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the over-two-decade conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States.

On February 21, some 10,000 Turkish troops crossed the Iraqi border and launched a major ground operation into northern Iraq to hit PKK camps. The eight-day incursion ended February 29.

Meanwhile, Cheney also expressed US concern over Iran’s ” nuclear armament program.” For his part, Erdogan said Iran should work with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and negotiate to solve the problem in a way to eliminate concerns of the international community, according to Anatolia.

However, Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and its enrichment work is aimed only at producing nuclear- generated electricity, not at making warheads.

The U.S. vice president, who arrived in Ankara on Monday, has discussed a broad range of topics including the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, the Middle East peace process with other Turkish leaders.

On Monday, Cheney also met with President Abdullah Gul and the country’s military chief, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit. But the meetings were closed to the media and no announcements were made afterward.

Cheney wrapped up his ten-day Middle East tour, which has taken him to Iraq, Oman, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestinian territories. Turkey is his last leg of his trip in the region.

His regional tour is part of the US strategy to keep the two sides, despite recent escalation, from straying off a framework of revived peace process before US President George W.Bush’s presidency expires in January next year.