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Published On: Mon, Oct 16th, 2017

Turkey ready to get involved in Iraq – Kurdistan war using PKK in Kirkuk as pretext

nsnbc : The government of Turkey has expressed its readiness to cooperate with the federal government of Iraq in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) where heavy clashes between Kurdish Peshmerga on one hand, and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi and federal security forces erupted in the early hours of Monday.

Iraq_Iraqi military_Kirkuk_2017_KARUsing the alleged involvement of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in the ongoing fighting in Kirkuk as a pretext, Ankara offered its cooperation to the federal government of Iraq in Baghdad and urged the government of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) in Erbil “not to provide shelter to the terrorist organization”.

“We once again emphasize the importance we attach to the protection of Iraq’s political unity and territorial integrity. We also underline our readiness for any kind of cooperation with the Iraqi government on the termination of the PKK presence in Iraqi territories,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement on October 16.

Ankara’s statement came as the Iraqi government launched an offensive against the KRG’s positions in and around Kirkuk, an oil-rich city whose status has not yet been decided. The start of the offensive led to the withdrawal of the KRG Peshmerga forces from a number of key locations. Participating in the clashes are regular Iraqi military and security forces, Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, and according to Kurdish intelligence sources also Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was closely following the Iraqi government’s moves for the “establishment of the constitutional order in Kirkuk,” which also has a large Turkmen population. “We welcome the Iraqi government’s statement that no tolerance will be shown to PKK members in Kirkuk and that the mobilization of these groups will be considered an act of war,” said the statement.

PKK fighters (archives)

PKK fighters (archives)

The Foreign Ministry also urged the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) “not to make another mistake” by allowing the PKK presence in the region, vowing that the KRG “will be held responsible if it lets the PKK find shelter.” “Turkey will stand with the Iraqi government in its steps that aim to establish lasting peace and stability in the country,” it added.

Meanwhile, the KRG denied that PKK fighters are involved in the current clashes in Kirkuk. In 2013 a large number of PKK Peshmerga withdrew from Turkey to the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq. The withdrawal happened in the hope that the Islamist AKP government of Turkey would honor its pledge to find a political settlement to end the armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish State. The PKK launched its armed campaign in 1984.

Ironically, in January 2017 Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani caved to pressure from Ankara and agreed to fight the PKK in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region.

The PKK had, in 2013, agreed to settle for recognition of the Kurdish people and Kurdish culture as well as some form of autonomy within Turkey instead of an independent Kurdish state on Turkish territory. In 2015 Ankara unilaterally ended the peace talks and the bilateral ceasefire and launched large-scale military operations against Kurds in southeastern Turkey. Ankara has over the course of 2017 significantly increased air strikes against PKK positions – also in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region – while the federal government of Iraq turned a blind eye.

F/AK – nsnbc 16.10.2017

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