WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Washington has increased its intelligence sharing with Turkey to help with its efforts to take on Kurdish militants, the U.S. defense secretary said.
Turkish lawmakers last week approved a mandate that allows the military to cross the border with Iraq to take on militants with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told members of the American Turkish Council in Washington that the United States was a strong strategic ally with Ankara when it comes to Kurdish militants.
"In response to the rise in PKK terrorist attacks against Turkish military forces and civilians over the past year, the U.S. has increased its efforts to crack down on PKK criminal enterprises, enhanced its intelligence support, and reached out to our European allies to encourage them to freeze PKK assets in Europe," he was quoted by the Pentagon as saying.
The European Union, Iraq, the United States and several others list the PKK as a terrorist organization. German, Italian and Belgian authorities rounded up scores of suspected PKK militants during the spring because of recruitment efforts at alleged training camps.
Washington froze the assets of several alleged PKK leaders for their role in drug trafficking.
Turkish authorities estimate there are around 4,000 militants with the PKK operating from the mountainous border region along the Turkish border with Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Ankara last year tried to find a diplomatic solution to the PKK issue, though that effort was upended when a court decided to disband a pro-Kurdish political party.