Baghdad - Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in the first visit by a Turkish head of state to Iraq in 33 years, on Monday urged the Iraqi government to do more to uproot Kurdish separatists hiding in the mountains along Iraq's border with Turkey.
In a joint news conference in Baghdad on Monday, Gul and Iraqi Prime Minister Jalal Talabani, himself an ethnic Kurd, promised to present a common regional front in putting an end to cross-border attacks from militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq.
"Terrorism and those who practice it are a scourge. They must be punished," Gul said. "It is time to end these problems that harm relations between Turkey and Iraq."
Turkish troops regularly bombard the mountains of northern Iraq targeting PKK fighters hiding there. Last October, PKK militants killed more than 20 Turkish soldiers in cross-border raids, the latest in a series of attacks on Turkish police, military, and tourist sites stretching back to the late 1970s.
Talabani promised Iraq's help in disarming or ejecting the PKK from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, recalling how Turkey "stood by the Iraqi people when they were suffering during the years of dictatorship."
"The Constitution prohibits the presence of armed groups on Iraqi soil, including the PKK," he said. "Either they will put down their weapons, or they will leave our soil."
Talabani and Gul said they would continue to hold three-way talks with the United States to discuss disarming the PKK.
Talabani in particular stressed the importance of involving Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in the process. Gul is scheduled to meet Barzani on the second day of his two-day visit to Iraq.
The two presidents further promised to expand economic ties, particularly in the energy sector, and on Monday said they would seek to double the value of Iraqi-Turkish trade to 10 billion dollars.
Iraq exports oil to Turkey and the world via a pipeline that runs through predominantly Kurdish areas in Iraq's north and Turkey's southwest on its way to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
Sabotage has often cut off the flow of oil from Iraq to Turkey since the US-led invasion in 2003. In recent years it has resumed as security has improved in Iraq, though an explosion briefly halted exports last November. (dpa)
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