Iran supports Turkish move against Kurds
ANKARA: Iran has voiced support for a potential Turkish operation against Kurdish militants just over its border in northern Iraq, Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said yesterday.
The Turkish military has ramped up air strikes in northern Iraq targeting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases in Qandil near the Iraq-Iran border, where high-ranking members of the militant group are thought to be located.
The government has also said Turkish troops have deployed roughly 30km inside northern Iraq, not far from Qandil.
“Our offer to Iran was to carry out the operation together. Iran, in its remarks at least, has voiced very important support,” Canikli told journalists.
There was no immediate confirmation of his assertion from Tehran.
Canikli said Turkey was also in full agreement with Baghdad on a potential operation into Qandil, adding that Ankara was in talks with “all possible countries” on the matter.
Iraq, however, said it would not accept any Turkish operation against Qandil or other PKK strongholds.
“The Iraqi government will not accept any advance on its land by Turkish forces in pursuit of the PKK elements currently present in the Sinjar, Makhmour and Qandil mountains,” said Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
He added that the Iraqi government would “absolutely not allow” any aggression from inside its land against Turkey or other states.
Canikli said there were “serious attacks and infiltration” into Turkey from Qandil, and Turkey would remain in northern Iraq until all terrorists groups were removed.
“Our goal now is to be a lasting presence there until terror is completely removed; we will remain in northern Iraq,” he said.
With a large Kurdish population of its own, concentrated in the south-east, Ankara has long resisted Kurdish ambitions for independence in Iraq, Syria or Iran, fearing it could inflame separatism inside Turkey.
An offensive against the PKK in Qandil would mark Turkey’s third cross-border operation since 2016, with the first two targeting Kurdish militia fighters in northern Syria.
Last week Turkey and the US endorsed a road map for the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation linked to the PKK, from the Syrian city of Manbij. – Reuters
Turkish army soldiers stand guard as Kurdish people wait to enter the curfew town of Cizre. PICTURE: AFP/African News Agency (ANA)