Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar visited the Turkey-Syria border on Sunday. Photo: Turkey Defence Ministry
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey’s operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will continue, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Sunday, a day after deadly protests against Turkish airstrikes in the Kurdistan Region and condemnation from Baghdad.
"Our effective operations will continue without disruption. We will invalidate all these provocations and finally clear the region from terrorists," Akar said during a visit to Mardin province on Turkey’s border with Syria.
He was accompanied by a number of senior military officials.
Local Kurds from Shiladze, Duhok province stormed
a Turkish military base in Sirye, Kurdistan Region on Saturday as a peaceful protest against deadly Turkish airstrikes turned violent. Unarmed protesters entered the base and started fires. Two protesters were killed and 15 injured.
Akar accused the PKK of “infiltrating” the Kurdish population in order to damage relations between Kurds and the army.
"The incident was completely organized by terrorists. They wanted to carry out some activities against our military base by infiltrating among the people,” Akar claimed, adding that their personnel were able to deal with the incident “with great patience and acumen.”
He said the PKK had resorted to “mobilizing innocent people” because it was unable to fend off Turkish offensives.
"The situation is now completely under control," he said.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry condemned “the Turkish forces opening of fire on citizens” in Shiladze, in a statement on Saturday night.
The ministry said it intended to summon the Turkish ambassador to lodge a formal complaint, demanding Turkey end its military incursions into Iraqi territory.
Asserting its sovereign rights, the ministry said that the job of ensuring the security of the people of Iraq “lies primarily with the responsibilities of the Iraqi government.”
At the same time, it condemned any group using Iraqi land to attack a neighbour.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has put the blame squarely on the PKK.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said on Sunday that without the PKK’s presence, Turkey would have no reason
to attack inside Kurdistan Region borders.
“Of course we do also try with Turkey to make sure that these incidents do not occur again. But it is all clear, the reason is the PKK presence,” he said.
Barzani’s stance has drawn criticism with many people on social media accusing him of failing to take a stronger position in defence of the Kurdish population.
Dozens of Kurdish civilians have been killed in years of Turkish bombardments against alleged PKK positions in the Kurdistan Region. Six civilians were killed in the days before Saturday’s protest.
The frequent airstrikes have also driven hundreds of villagers out of their mountain homes along the border and damaged the environment.