06:31 GMT +321 February 2019
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    Bush helps Turkey gain time

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    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Maria Appakova) - Whether or not U.S. President George W. Bush convinced Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to abandon the plan of a military operation in Iraq during their talks at the White House, is still unclear; though probably not, because Erdogan is still hostage to the situation.

    The Turkish prime minister desperately wants the current tensions to be resolved without extreme measures, such as sending troops to Iraq. Still, unless the terrorist acts orchestrated in Turkey by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) stop soon, Erdogan might have no other choice but to give the go-ahead to a major cross-border attack against PKK rebels in northern Iraq. For now, he has some time left, partly thanks to the Washington talks.

    In October, the Turkish parliament approved a military invasion into Iraqi Kurdistan where PKK fighters were hiding. The approval will remain effective for the next 12 months. As of now, Turkish forces only engage in border area skirmishes.

    Washington backed the Turkish government by agreeing that the PKK was a terrorist organization, which means using force against it is justified, unless such actions undermine regional stability. In other words, Turkey will refrain from sending troops to Iraq without Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdistan government's permission. In exchange, Bush pledged full support to Turkey including intelligence sharing to help combat the terrorists. The Turkish prime minister said that the talks were "a very positive meeting."

    Even though Bush did not elaborate on the specific commitments to help Ankara, Erdogan seemed to be expecting much. "I do not think I have to explain what I mean by 'enemy'," he said after the talks.

    He certainly did not have to explain what he meant. Even before Erdogan's visit to Washington, State Secretary Condoleezza Rice said that, although the PKK had been there long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, now Washington bears responsibility for everything that happens in that country. The U.S. confirmed that Iraq would never be used as shelter for terrorist organizations, including the PKK.

    On the other hand, this does not mean that Americans will immediately redeploy their forces to the regions where PKK fighters are hiding, which is in fact the calmest part of Iraq.

    What they would rather offer is intelligence sharing with Ankara and economic sanctions against those cooperating with the PKK. They might also pressure the Iraqi government to join Turkey in its fight against the organization.

    Washington has made it very clear that Ankara will be its partner of choice if the choice is between the Iraqi Kurds and the Turks, unless the Kurds stabilize their own territory.

    Bush provided Erdogan with powerful motivation to withstand the growing pressure on him within his country. He does not have to hit back right away and unleash a war that no one needs, least of all Turkey. Now much will depend on how good Washington, Baghdad and Iraqi Kurds are on their pledges to stem the PKK's terrorist activity.

    Erdogan must certainly be given credit for his exquisite diplomacy. The Turkish prime minister retained partnerships with both Washington and Baghdad amid crises in the both Turkish-U.S. and Turkish-Iraqi relations. Moreover, he eventually led both Washington and Baghdad to pledge to support him. He declared war, but preserved peace - at least for the time being.

    If all goes well, no large-scale conflict can be expected in the region at least until next spring.

    The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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