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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq Urges Turkey to Avoid Offensive

ANKARA, Turkey -- Iraq's vice president Tuesday urged Turkey not to stage a cross border offensive to fight separatist Kurdish rebels based in Iraq and called for diplomacy to solve the problem, reports said.

Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, made the appeal during a visit to Turkey, a day before the Turkey's parliament was expected to approve a motion allowing the government to order cross border operations over the next year, the Turkish NTV television reported.

"We are against a cross border offensive. Diplomacy should be given a chance," NTV quoted Hashemi as saying. "I hope that I will be able to convince Turkey on the issue."

Hashemi's remarks came after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, "The passage of the motion in the parliament does not mean that an operation will be carried out at once."

Erdogan also said, "Turkey will act with common sense and determination when necessary and when the time is right."

In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Tuesday that he was dispatching a "high-level" political and security team to Turkey to try to defuse tensions on the Iraqi-Turkish border.

A statement by his office said the decision was made after Maliki met with senior aides to discuss the crisis.

The head of the United Nation's refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, meanwhile expressed deep concern at the prospect of a Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq, warning that it could exacerbate a refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Erdogan called on Iraq and Iraqi Kurds to crack down on separatist rebels. He said the regional administration in northern Iraq should "build a thick wall between itself and terrorist organizations."

Erdogan said any action would only target the rebels and Turkey would respect Iraq's territorial integrity.

Washington has urged NATO ally Turkey not to enter Iraq, fearing that unilateral Turkish military action could destabilize the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, one of Iraq's few relatively stable areas. The Kurds are a longtime U.S. ally.

An offensive could also undermine Turkey's relations with the European Union, which has pushed Turkey to treat its minority Kurds better.

But Turkey says some European countries tolerate the activities of rebel sympathizers and is frustrated with the perceived lack of U.S. support in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

"We have serious expectations from the U.S. administration on the issue," Egemen Bagis, a foreign policy adviser to Erdogan, said Tuesday.

Turkey staged several incursions in the 1990s but they failed to stamp out rebel hideouts.

A Turkish soldier was killed Tuesday when he stepped on a mine, believed to have been planted by Kurdish rebels, near the southeastern city of Bingol, local authorities said.

PKK rebels have demanded autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Turkey's frustration with the perceived lack of U.S. support in the fight against the PKK, branded as terrorists by Washington, has intensified because of another sensitive issue: the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.