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Iraq’s Kurds meet Turkish delegation in Baghdad

Iraq’s senior Kurdish leader met with Turkish officials Tuesday in Baghdad, a news agency reported, the first direct talks between the two sides in four years. The meeting between Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani and a Turkish envoy occurred as tensions are high after Kurdish rebels killed 17 Turkish soldiers on the Turkey-Iraq border earlier this month. Kurdish authorities condemned the Oct. 3 attack. But Turkey has been pressuring them to cut supply lines to the rebels and arrest and hand over rebel leaders.

The meeting, which was held in the US-protected Green Zone, lasted about two hours, Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Turkey’s special envoy for Iraq Murat Ozcelik was quoted as saying the talks were held in a «positive atmosphere» and that Turkey had communicated to the other side its suggestions concerning security.

A spokesman for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Fouad Hussein, said earlier that the meeting was being held to discuss bilateral relations. He did not elaborate.

The Kurdistan Workers› Party, or PKK, branded a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, has been fighting for autonomy in the southeast since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Kurdish forces known as peshmergas had fought against the PKK alongside Turkish troops during incursions in 1990s. Turkey is again trying to win support of Iraqi Kurds against the rebels.

Barzani and other Kurdish officials met regularly with Turkish officials during former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime. But relations cooled following the 2003 US-led invasion as Kurdish national aspirations skyrocketed, and the last such meetings were held in 2004

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