Turkey wants the United States to take concrete steps against Iraq-based separatist Kurdish rebels, a special Turkish envoy said, warning that time was running out for Ankara to see substantial progress in eliminating the threat posed by the militants.
Retired general Edip Baser, Ankara's coordinator with Washington in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), said he would discuss "priority concrete steps" with his US counterpart, retired general Joseph W. Ralston, when they meet in January.
"We (Turkey) have a time frame in our minds," Baser told the NTV news channel. "If we have not come up with concrete steps by the end of that time frame then we (Turkey) will say there is no need for us to dally any longer and we will call off this joint effort."
There could be a "parting of ways" if the United States rejects measures that Turkey believes should be in place against the rebels, Baser said.
He acknowledged that it was "not realistic to expect concrete, important steps against the PKK in one day," but said Ankara would like to see a sign of progress by early next year.
Baser underlined that should the need arise, Turkey would carry out a cross-border operation on its own to crack down on the rebels in their camps in northern Iraq.
"This is not an issue anyone can meddle in," he said.
Turkey has long been pressing the United States and Iraq to stamp out the PKK presence in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, which Ankara says the rebels use as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets across the border.
But the United States and Baghdad have been reluctant to crack down on the rebels, saying they are swamped by violence in other parts of the country.
Washington has argued for other types of measures, such as cutting off the PKK's finances, before a military operation.
Growing impatient, Ankara has threatened cross-border operations against PKK camps in Iraq, a move Washington opposed on grounds that joint action by United States, Turkey and Iraq would produce better results.
In August this year, Turkey and the United States appointed Baser and Ralston as their envoys to better coordinate their joint struggle against the rebel group. The two men have been meeting since September.
More than 37,000 people have been killed since 1984, when the PKK, classified as a terror organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms for self-rule in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast.
The rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire from October 1, saying it hoped this would pave the way for a dialogue to resolve the conflict.
But the truce, like the previous ones called by the PKK, was quickly rejected by Turkey.