Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani has called for the outlawed PKK leadership to leave northern Iraq in order to avoid civilian casualties following recent Turkish air strikes against PKK targets in the region.
Barzani’s office released a statement saying that “PKK must withdraw from Iraqi Kurdistan in order to prevent civilian casualties from operations of Turkish jets in the region.”
The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the EU, the US, and Turkey.
The KRG intelligence chief Masrour Barzani also said in early July that the PKK must get out of northern Iraq since Turkey has put in effect a Turkish-Kurdish peace process dating back late 2012.
In addition, Barzani’s political adviser Kifah Mahmoud told AFP that “If the PKK did not have an armed presence in the region, Turkey would not bomb civilian areas.”
“There is a treaty between Turkey and Iraq allowing Turkish military forces to enter Iraqi territory when attacked. Therefore, the PKK must leave from the region,” Mahmoud added.
He refers to the Turkey-Iraq Border Treaty signed between the countries in 1946. According to the treaty, Turkey has a right to hot pursuit of the armed attacks coming from the Iraqi territory at a depth of 15 kilometres (10 miles) as the Iraqi government has also been entitled with the same rights for Turkish territory.
Mahmoud stated that the treaty is still fully valid.
— TRT World (@trtworld) July 31, 2015
In his statement, Barzani also condemned “the bombing of civilians leading the martyrdom of Kurdistan Region people.”
“Turkey should not repeat any kind of bombing against civilians. There will be no explanation for the attacks causing civilian deaths,” Barzani added.
Hemin Hawrami, head of Foreign Relations Office of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) claimed that Turkish airstrikes,“ killed 8 civilians in Zargali, Iraqi Kurdistan,” in his KDP twitter account.
Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement on August 1 denying the claims about civilian casualties in the Turkish air strikes in northern Iraq saying that intelligence reports before the operation “concluded with certainty that there are no civilians” in the area.
Press Release Regarding Operations Conducted Against PKK Terrorist Organisation http://t.co/mh2Y8fy5iH
— Turkish MFA (@MFATurkey) August 1, 2015
“It is known that there are no civilians at the Zergele terrorist Camp in question, also that high level PKK members were present there during the operation,” the statement said.
The Foreign Ministry statement also added that “it is unfortunately a fact that the terrorist organisation uses civilians as human shields.”
“In any event, all the allegations that have been brought forward will be investigated fully and a joint study will be also be meticulously conducted with the authorities of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Administration on this matter,” the statement stressed, promising a thorough investigation.
Citing anonymous government sources Turkish media outlet CNN Turk has reported that the Zergele camp which was targeted by Turkish airstrikes on Friday was host not only the PKK members but also two female members of PKK's Iranian affiliate PJAK.
Turkish media outlet, CNN Turk, cited Turkish security officials as saying that they have identified walkie-talkies through which the PKK ordered its own media outlets to publish news connected to the alleged civilian deaths "in order to create a perception that civilians have been targeted by the air strikes."
Turkey began a campaign of air strikes against ISIS and PKK targets in Syria and northern Iraq on July 24. The decision came after a series of terror attacks carried by ISIS and PKK against civilians, security officials and private properties.
On July 20, ISIS allegedly killed 32 civilians in a suicide bomb attack in the Suruc district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa. Later, ISIS militants killed a Turkish soldier, Yalcin Nane, in an armed attack against Turkish security forces while trying to cross into Turkey from the border town of Kilis.
The PKK has particularly increased its terror attacks on both police and the Turkish Armed Forces, and killed several security officers following the Suruc suicide bombing. At least 16 Turkish security officials along with several civilians have been killed in terror attacks carried out by PKK and ISIS militants since the Suruc suicide bomb attack.
Turkey has stepped up its security measures and began a campaing of air strikes against ISIS and PKK targets in Syria and northern Iraq on July 24.
The KRG has condemned the PKK attack on Wednesday in the Cizre district of Sirnak province near the Iraqi border against the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline carrying Iraqi Kurdistan gas sources into Turkey.
Barzani’s office also stated that the KRG and its president are ready “to reengage their role for the reestablishment of the ceasefire and the relaunch of the peace process, as violence and the use of force do not settle any problem,” referring to the Turkish-Kurdish peace process.