ISTANBUL / ANKARA
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkey’s prime minister has dismissed reports of ongoing tension between Ankara
and Baghdad after an alleged violation of Iraqi airspace, saying Iraqi officials are aware of the Turkish offensive in northern Iraq.
“As you know, what we do is conduct aerial operations against terrorists [in northern Iraq]. I’ve been told [by some Iraqi officials] ‘We are not strong enough in the fight against terrorism.’ And we do what is necessary in case of an attack coming from [northern Iraq],” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
told reporters in Istanbul late July 19.
Erdoğan’s statement came after Baghdad vowed to apply to the UN seeking condemnation of countries that violate Iraqi airspace, including Turkey. There were also unconfirmed reports that Iraq had closed its airspace to Turkish civilian flights as well. Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay denied these reports yesterday.
Iraq has the primary responsibility for taking measures against terrorists based in its territories who commit deadly attacks against Turkey, in line with the trilateral mechanism between Turkey, the U.S. and Iraq, Atalay said, adding that Turkey will take the necessary measures if Iraq fails to do so.
“We told Iraq and the U.S. that we would prefer for Iraq to stop these terrorist activities. If you [Iraq] do it, we’ll give priority to this. If not, then we’ll do it. Our military operations have been carried out based upon intelligence provided by [Iraq]. They are informed of our operations,” Atalay said.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) has around 5,000 terrorists based in the mountainous parts of northern Iraq, from where they coordinate and carry out terrorist activities against Turkey. The PKK
is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the EU.
In addition to the airspace dispute, Ankara-Baghdad relations suffered another blow last week when Ankara
entered into an oil trade agreement with autonomous northern Iraq without the permission of the central government in Baghdad. Without directly referring to this incident, Erdoğan said the source of unease was the fact that Baghdad is resisting granting the rights it promised to northern Iraq. “We wish to see a united Iraq,” Erdoğan said.