by Staff Writers
Istanbul (AFP) Sept 12, 2011
Turkey was in talks with the United States to base Predator drones on its territory to operate against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, Anatolia news agency quoted Turkey's deputy prime minister as saying Monday.
"Turkey benefits and should benefit from unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence purposes," Bulent Arinc was quoted as saying at a press conference in Ankara.
The talks have not concluded, he said.
The Washington Post reported at the weekend the United States was considering a request from Turkey to base Predator drones there.
Citing unnamed senior US military officials, the newspaper said a decision to deploy the drones could strengthen the US-Turkish diplomatic alliance but draw the United States deeper into the conflict.
The US military has flown unarmed Predators from Iraqi bases since 2007, sharing their surveillance video with Turkey as part of a secretive crackdown against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the report said.
But the counterterrorism partnership could end by December 31, when all US forces are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq.
Last month, the United States offered Turkey its continued support in the fight against PKK rebels who claimed responsibility for the deaths of eight Turkish soldiers in an ambush.
Previously undisclosed diplomatic cables show Turkey has become highly dependent on the Predators, U-2 spy aircraft and other US intelligence sources in its military campaign against the PKK, The Post said.
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