Turkey to carry out cross-border operation against PKK in Iraq

Source: Xinhua| 2018-03-09 00:42:49|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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ANKARA, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Turkey said Thursday it could launch a cross-border military operation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) elements in Iraq in cooperation with the Iraqi army.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed that common understanding has been reached between Turkey and Iraq, CNN Turk reported.

"We have reached to consensus with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the issue to carry out the offensive together," Cavusoglu said during his visit to Austria.

He said Abadi "wants to clear all terrorist organizations off the country," the minister said.

Cavusoglu warned against the PKK members' advance to the Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk provinces of northern Iraq, establishing canton-like structures in Iraq as Syrian Kurds did in Syria.

The PKK is a threat posed not only to Baghdad but also to the Iraqi Kurdish administration in the north of the country, he added.

The joint operation with Iraqi army may start after the elections in Iraq scheduled for May 12.

The foreign minister said "Operation Olive Branch" in Syria's Afrin against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) group may end by May.

He added that even if the current cross-border operation into Syria has not been completed, his country is capable of carrying out two cross-border operations simultaneously.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the EU, resumed its 30-year armed campaign against Turkey government in July 2015 after a brief reconciliation period.

Turkish air forces regularly strike weapon depots and hideouts used by PKK in northern Iraq, where the group uses as a base for years.

The group uses Qandil Mountain near the Iraq-Iran border to launch attacks on Turkey.

Turkey has long been urging Iraqi government to take action against the PKK presence in northern Iraq, but for several years no Iraqi government did so.

Al-Abadi was against Turkey's military intervention into his country as bilateral relations hit new lows after the Turkish army deployed troops in Bashiqa region in northern Iraq in order to train Sunni local militia and Kurdish fighters as part of efforts to defeat Islamic State (IS).

Turkish ground troops, from time to time, enter northern Iraq for short-term operations in "hot pursuit" to hunt Kurdish militants in the border region.

The Iraqi governments since former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki do not favor Turkey's military operations involving ground troops.

Since early 2017, both Ankara and Baghdad are in process of restoring strained ties and seeking to boost cooperation in fields of economy, defense, politics and trade.

As the Syrian Kurdish group has advanced its influence in a war-torn country both in terms of militarily and territory, Turkey rang the alarm bells since the Turkish state assumes the YPG as an offshoot of the PKK and considers it as an existential threat for the unity of its own country due to its own Kurdish population.

Turkey has battled a decades-old insurgency in its mainly Kurdish southeast and sees the Syrian Kurdish group a growing power on its southern border threatening Turkish security.

Ankara has launched military incursion on Jan. 20 against Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-led autonomous Afrin and declared that the military campaign will continue until all PKK related groups are cleared from Turkey's southern borders, all the way to Iraq.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly vows to "clean the region from this trouble completely," signaling that the offensive against PKK and the affiliated group will not remain merely with the operation in Afrin.