Turkey said yesterday planned economic sanctions against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq would be targeted at groups providing support for the rebels.
Officials declined to say what the new measures would include but made clear they would not harm Turks and Iraqis not connected to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been launching attacks on Turkey from across the border.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the measures, agreed at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, were not yet in force and he denied a television report that Turkey had closed its airspace to flights to and from northern Iraq.
Turkey has sent 100,000 troops to the Iraqi border, backed by tanks, artillery and aircraft, ready for a possible military incursion into northern Iraq against PKK militants there.
Diplomats say Turkey may hold fire on both sanctions and major military action for now to see whether talks in Ankara on Friday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and further discussions between Erdogan and US President George W. Bush next Monday in Washington yield any results.
"When we talk of economic sanctions, we don't mean to cause difficulty to people living in Turkey and Iraq," Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a news conference in Ankara, striking a relatively mild tone after the tough rhetoric of recent days.
"We are targeting the economic sources of the terrorist organization and those elements providing support to the terrorist organization," he added.
NATO-member Turkey knows economic sanctions could end up hurting its own economy as much as that of northern Iraq.
Source: China Daily/Agencies