Israel reassures Turkey over Kurds

Israel moved to allay Turkish concern over its alleged support for Kurdish rebels.

Turkey’s recent threats to invade Kurdish areas of northern Iraq in retaliation for rebel attacks on its border troops have thrown a spotlight on Israeli ties to the Kurds.

Since the Saddam Hussein regime was overthrown in 2003, there have been high-profile reports of Israeli sponsorship of Iraqi Kurdish forces, either in the form of private military training or as an intelligence proxy for monitoring nearby Iran.

But Israel, which has carefully cultivated defense and trade relations with Turkey, denies that it supports Kurds fighting Ankara’s rule from Iraqi bases. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was scheduled to meet his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, in London on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

“We have no intention of cooperating with the Kurds in northern Iraq,” an Olmert aide told Yediot Achronot. “Turkey is a top strategic partner, as far as we are concerned, and we don’t plan to play with fire when it comes to our allies.”

Israel has been active in Kurdistan since the 1960s, when it adopted a policy of building alliances with non-Arab players in the Middle East.

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