Erdogan signals cross-border operation in northern Iraq

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives notice to Iraqi state authorities that outlawed PKK should not be allowed to use Iraqi territories for attacks against Turkey or country will act on its own terms in northern Iraq

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given notice to Iraqi state authorities that if they do not swiftly act to prevent the outlawed PKK from attacking Turkey the country will take its own measures against the armed group in northern Iraq.

Erdogan said, “Either Iraq will bring [PKK] terrorists to account for their actions or we will settle our accounts with the PKK. We told them that 'We bide our time. Either you deal with them or you will force us to deal with them.' ”

“The day of reckoning has come,” he added.

Turkish media previously reported that the Turkish Army is planning undertake a large-scale cross-border operation into northern Iraq against PKK camps and militants following numerous attacks carried out by the group throughout Turkey in the past weeks.

The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, NATO, the US and EU.

Turkish media outlers have reported that Turkish security forces first plan to destroy PKK targets in Turkey. Then the military will launch a large-scale operation against the PKK camps in Hakurk, Avashin and Qandil which are the main bases of the group in northern Iraq.

According to the Turkey-Iraq Border Treaty signed in 1946 Turkey has the right of hot pursuit of armed attackers coming from Iraqi territory to a depth of 15 kilometres (10 miles). The Iraqi government also has the same rights with respect to Turkish territory.

Turkey has recently been targeted with increasingly frequent attacks by the ISIS and PKK terrorist groups since a suicide bombing, widely thought to have been carried out by ISIS, on July 20 in Suruc District of Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa Province claimed 34 lives.

The PKK in particular has increased its attacks on both Turkish police and the Turkish Armed Forces and has killed several security officers in such attacks following the Suruc suicide bombing. Thirty nine Turkish security officials have been killed in militant attacks by the PKK and ISIS since the bombing.

In response to the PKK and ISIS attacks, Turkish security forces have stepped up efforts against the militant groups and launched air strikes in several positions used by them in northern Iraq and Syria respectively since late July.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu recently visited the Kurdish region in northern Iraq and met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani and other notable Kurdish leaders to discuss the air strikes. 

Since the 1980s Turkey has undertaken numerous cross-border operations against PKK camps and hideouts, targeting PKK terrorists in northern Iraq with the support of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Peshmerga forces and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Peshmerga forces.

Turkey will appreciate the support of the KRG for air strikes and for a possible cross-border operation against PKK targets in order to put pressure on the PKK’s leadership following the recent clashes between the PKK and Turkish Army.

Barzani recently called on the PKK leadership's to leave northern Iraq in order to avoid civilian casualties.

Barzani said, “The PKK must withdraw from Iraqi Kurdistan in order to prevent civilian casualties from the operations of Turkish jets in the region,” in a statement released by his office.   

According to KRG regulations Barzani’s term is due to end on August 20. He is currently seeking to have his term extended, but this has been faced with swift opposition from most of the parties in the Kurdish regional parliament in Erbil.

Turkish media reported today that there has been a high-level meeting between Barzani and representatives of four major parties of Iraqi Kurdistan in the Salaheddin district of Erbil.

Barzani has called on the parties to act responsibly regarding the issue of the presidential election and to find a resolution at what is a critical time for the region, media reports stated.

Duran Kalkan, one of the PKK leaders in the Qandil Moutains, declared in mid-April that Barzani cannot unilaterally claim to govern Iraqi Kurdistan from Erbil.

Barzani condemned Kalkan’s “words” saying, “He has made improper comments on the Kurdistan Region and overstepped his limits with a hostile point of view,” in a report published by pro-Barzani media outlet Rudaw based on a written statement from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Barzani has been the leader of the KDP since 1979, succeeding his father Mullah Mustafa Barzani as the head of the party.

TRTWorld and agencies