Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exchanging with a Turkish Army Serviceman during a visit to border units in Turkey's Hatay province, April 1, 2018. Photo: Turkish Presidential Press Service / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Baghdad that Ankara will not wait for permission to extend its war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) into Iraqi territory.
Erdogan, speaking at the opening ceremony for a number of new schools and gymnasiums in Istanbul on Monday, said PKK fighters may flee across international borders, but they cannot hide from the Turkish armed forces.
“You may hear new goals at any moment,” he said, indirectly addressing Turkey’s military.
“Today, Turkey finds terror organization in their dens at the border and breathes down their necks.”
“They [terrorists] are hiding, we are chasing them. What happened? They ran off to Syria, to Afrin, to Sinjar [Shingal],” Erdogan said, according to the state-backed Anadolu Agency.
If Baghdad fails to confront the PKK in its northern and Kurdish provinces, Ankara will be forced to act unilaterally and extend its operations into Iraqi territory, he said.
“If you can deal with them, deal with them, or else we will come to Sinjar and deal with them. We do not ask for permission from anyone, nor do we look into anyone’s eyes for all this,” said Erdogan.
The PKK has reportedly withdrawn from the Yezidi town of Shingal where its positions have been taken up by the Iraqi army. The PKK deployed forces to Shingal in 2014 to help defend the Yezidis against the genocidal campaign of ISIS.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has previously “rejected any violation by Turkey” of Iraqi territory.
During a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim last week, the Iraqi PM insisted there “is no agreement” between the Iraqi and Turkish governments regarding joint operations in Iraq to hunt down PKK elements, Abadi’s office said in a statement.
Yildirim said Turkey respects Iraqi sovereignty and won't bypass it, but demanded that Baghdad provide the same coordination with Ankara in the fight against the PKK as it did in the ISIS conflict.
Turkey has recently accelerated its aerial and ground campaigns against PKK fighters in the mountainous areas of the northern parts of the Kurdistan Region.
On Monday, Turkish jets launched fresh bombing raids in the Kurdistan Region, striking Gali Kawarta, Moukhar, and Khuakurk in the Sidakan area, 70 kilometers northeast of Erbil.
As part of its military operation, the Turkish army has pushed 10 kilometers deep into the Region, occupying 28 villages.
Turkey began an anti-PKK border operation on March 10 in northern Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaimani provinces.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has blamed the Turkish bombing on the PKK’s cross-border attacks against Turkey, saying the group must stop using Kurdish territories for its armed activities.
The PKK, a named a terror organization in Turkey, the US and the EU, has its headquarters in Kurdistan’s Qandil Mountains. The PKK is an armed group fighting for greater political and minority rights in Turkey.