Turkey to fight terror with allies or alone: Erdoğan
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara is determined to pursue its cross-border military operations from its southern borders to northern Iraq, stating that the operation in the Kandil region is ongoing.
“We are bombing Kandil right now. We are telling those who call themselves a friend that if you are a friend, you deal with it. If you will not, we will,” Erdoğan said in a speech he delivered following Friday prayers in Istanbul’s Sultangazi Mosque on June 15.
“We will have further good news for you in following days,” he added.
The Turkish president’s comments came after the Turkish military announced on June 15 that 26 outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants were killed or surrendered in operations since June 12.
Erdoğan on June 11 said an operation against the PKK has begun in Kandil on the Iraq-Iran border as well as the Iraqi-controlled Sinjar region, which is a Yezidi Kurdish region.
“We have destroyed 14 important targets using 20 of our [warplanes]. They have hit [their targets] and they have returned. We are not done. This will continue,” the president said during an election rally in the central province of Niğde.
“Kandil will not be a threat or a source of terror for our people anymore. We will drain the terror swamp in Kandil as we have done in Afrin, Jarablus, Azaz, al-Bab,” he said, referring to the northern Syrian regions where the Turkish military had pursued military operations with Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces.
Turkey was concerned about the presence of Syrian Kurdish forces in its northern border region, especially the United States-backed Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara deems an offshoot of the outlawed PKK and an imminent threat to its territorial integrity.
Erdoğan has also vowed to extend military operations in Syria if need be, a stance that has caused friction with the NATO-ally United States, which has backed the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“We have demolished the terror corridor in northern Syria. Now, we are bombing Kandil,” Erdoğan said on June 15.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said last week Baghdad was ready to cooperate with Ankara to prevent attacks from Iraq into Turkey. He also called on Turkey to “respect Iraqi sovereignty” and accused Turkish politicians of raising tensions for domestic purposes ahead of the June 24 elections.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also announced on June 13 that Turkey is in contact with Iran about conducting an operation against the PKK in Kandil.
“We are in contact with Iran,” Çavuşoğlu told private broadcaster Habertürk.
“The PKK is a threat to them as well. Kandil is very close to the Iranian border. We will improve cooperation with Iran,” he said.