Iraq cuts off support for PKK, vice president says

Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi says Baghdad no longer pays salaries to PKK fighters in Sinjar after reaching a deal with Turkey.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The words of Osama al-Nujaifi (second from left), a prominent Sunni leader in Iraq, have confirmed the normalisation of ties between Ankara and Baghdad after a year of strained relations.

The Iraqi government has cut off its support to the PKK, the country’s Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi said.

The PKK is an armed organisation that has carried out attacks in Turkey, targeting government institutions, security forces and civilians since 1984. The group, which is based in northern Iraq’s Qandil mountains, is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey as well as other countries and international bodies, including the US and the EU.

Turkish Armed Forces regularly carry out cross-border operations into northern Iraq on PKK hideouts. But the Iraqi government in Baghdad had been supporting the group with arms and funds.

The PKK captured the strategic Sinjar region, a short distance from the neighbouring Syrian governorate of Hasaka, from the Daesh terrorist group at the end of 2015. It has controlled the area, mainly populated by the ethno-religious Yazidi minority, with the support of the Iraqi government ever since.

An Iraqi fighter looks on as smoke billows during an operation in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on November 12, 2015. (File photo)

But in an interview given to Rudaw, the official news agency of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the Iraqi vice president said that Baghdad stopped paying salaries to the PKK and their Yazidi affiliates after Turkey “reached a deal” with the KRG and the Iraqi government.

“To my knowledge, this was solved under American supervision,” Nujaifi added.

Nujaifi also said that Iraqi relations with Turkey had “normalised” after disagreements over Turkey’s involvement in operations to liberate the city of Mosul from Daesh almost brought the two countries to war.

“Relations between Iraq and Turkey are normalised and all policies are transparent in this regard,” Nujaifi said. “It was decided that Turkish troops will pull out but it has been postponed for after the Mosul operation.”

In October last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi referred to Turkish troops stationed in the northern Iraqi town of Bashiqa, near Mosul, as "occupation forces." He demanded their immediate withdrawal and claimed that "the Turkish adventure could turn into a regional war."

But in January, Abadi and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim ironed out their differences on the Turkish deployment during a meeting in Baghdad.

Turkish troops were invited to Bashiqa by the KRG last year to train Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters ahead of an offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, from the Daesh terrorist group.

Daesh has controlled the city since capturing it in June 2014.