Turkey to press on with incursion despite Iraqi protests
ANKARA –In defiance of Iraq, Turkey said Thursday its cross-border operations against Kurdish militants will go on as long as Baghdad continues to overlook the militants’ presence in northern Iraq.
In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry also urged Iraqi authorities to “cooperate” with Ankara.
Turkey has regularly attacked the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, both in its mainly- Kurdish southeast and in northern Iraq, where the group is based.
In June, Ankara launched a new ground offensive, dubbed Operation Claw Tiger, that saw Turkish troops advance deeper into Iraq.
On Tuesday, a Turkish air strike in northern Iraq killed two commanders of Iraq’s border guard and their driver, Iraq’s military said, calling the attack a “flagrant aggression.”
Iraq’s foreign ministry subsequently announced the cancellation by Baghdad of a visit by Turkey’s defence minister to the country, and summoned the Turkish ambassador to inform him of “Iraq’s emphatic rejection of his country’s attacks and violations.”
In a statement early on Thursday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said PKK presence also threatened Iraq and that it was Baghdad’s responsibility to take measures against the militants, but that Ankara will defend its borders if the PKK’s presence is allowed.
“Our country is ready to cooperate with Iraq on this issue. However, in the event PKK presence in Iraq is overlooked, our country is determined to take the measures it deems necessary for its border security no matter where it may be,” the ministry said.
“We call on Iraq to take the necessary steps for this.”
The PKK, designated a “terrorist group” by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, focused in southeast Turkey.
The Kurdish group long used the rugged terrain of northern Iraq as a rear base to wage attacks on Turkey, which in turn set up military positions inside Iraqi territory to fight back.
The Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq, dominated by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, see the PKK as a worrying presence but have never been able to uproot it from northern Iraqi bases.
Baghdad sees Turkey’s military presence in the Kurdish region as a violation of its sovereignty, but still does not want to alienate Turkey, a major trading partner and regional heavyweight, despite Ankara’s incursion into Iraq’s sovereign territory.