CIA Chief Discusses Syria, Iraq With Turkish PM

CIA Director David Petraeus discussed developments in Syria and Iraq with Turkish leaders including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his surprise visit to Ankara that ended on Tuesday.

According to Turkish media reports, escalating sectarian strife in Iraq was among the issues Petraeus discussed with Erdogan. Iraq is in political turmoil ever since the Shia-led government issued an arrest warrant for Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi, one of the country's top Sunni politicians, on charges of running death squads in a case that raised fears of an increase in sectarian tension after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December last.

Turkey, which earlier conducted shuttle diplomacy between rival Iraqi politicians, was critical of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a chief culprit in the current political impasse.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said Petraeus, a former top General in Iraq and Afghanistan, had "productive meetings" on Monday and Tuesday with Erdogan and Hakan Fidan, chief of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

Petraeus and Turkish leaders discussed "regional security issues and counter-terrorism cooperation," an Embassy statement said describing the relations between the countries' intelligence services as "excellent."

Petraeus and Erdogan also discussed the activities of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, where Turkish fighter jets have frequently conducted air strikes since last summer. U.S. and Turkey have been closely cooperating in intelligence sharing on the activities of the PKK, which has been branded as a terrorist organization by both the countries, and its camps in northern Iraq.

They also discussed unabated violence in neighboring Syria. Turkey is scheduled to host a second meeting of the "Friends of Syria" later this month in a bid to find a political solution to the year-long unrest in that Arab country and to seek ways to establish a humanitarian aid corridor to help civilians.

Another topic officials discussed at the meeting was Iran's nuclear standoff with the West. Erdogan is set to visit Tehran later this month to discuss the nuclear imbroglio, and nuclear talks with major powers expected to be held in Turkey next month.

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