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Obama lauds Turkey's PKK initative

May 17, 2013 at 2:15 PM

WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) -- Efforts to solve the crisis with the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party are commendable, U.S. President Barack Obama said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Washington with Obama to discuss issues ranging from the upcoming Group of Eight summit to the ongoing crisis in Syria.

NATO forces deployed missile defense systems in Syria to help its ally against cross-border attacks. Erdogan's government, meanwhile, recently secured assurances from Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the militant group known by its Kurdish initials PKK, that his fighters would abandon Turkish territory.

"I want to take this opportunity to commend you and the Turkish people for your courage in seeking a historic and peaceful resolution of the PKK violence that has plagued Turkey for so long," Obama during a joint news conference.

PKK personnel started arriving in northern Iraq this week. Pro-Kurdish leaders in Turkey said the formal withdrawal process started last week, though departing combatants said travel was slowed by heavy rains and snow in the mountainous region.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization. The group didn't disarm as part of the withdrawal process, though it expressed frustration it was unable to get security guarantees from the Turkish government.

Erdogan said little of the initiative during formal statements while in Washington.

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