Ankara-Baghdad-Arbil vow joint anti-PKK fight
BAGHDAD/ARBILTurkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s two-day visit to Iraq has resulted in mutual understanding among Ankara, Baghdad and Arbil to exert more efforts for a joint struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has expanded its influence in northern Iraq.
Ankara and Baghdad have also agreed to resolve a long-standing trouble in bilateral ties over the Turkish military’s presence in Bashiqa in a friendly manner.
“The PKK’s expansion toward the West and finding shelter in Sinjar is not acceptable to us either. This is an issue of security. But not only Turkey’s, it’s also yours [the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government]. It’s also an issue for the Iraqi central government. That’s why there is a need to jointly work on this,” Yıldırım told reporters on Jan. 8 in Arbil after talks with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani the same day in Arbil.
Yıldırım moved to Arbil from Baghdad where he had important talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Jan. 7.
“Our meetings [in Baghdad and Arbil] could be put into two categories: The first is a joint fight against terror and the second is to work more on economy and investments as well as bring stability to the region,” he said.
Yıldırım’s visit to Iraq is seen as a new beginning in ties between the two neighbors following months of crisis over Turkey’s military camp in Bashiqa which purportedly aims to train local Sunni groups in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
In Baghdad, Yıldırım and al-Abadi issued a joint statement highlighting a joint anti-terror stance and the need to resolve the Bashiqa issue. “The two parties have emphasized that they will not allow the presence and activities of any terror organizations in their territories that would impose a national security threat to both countries,” read the joint statement.
One of the most important results of the visit is on Bashiqa as Yıldırım vowed to resolve it “in a friendly manner,” hinting that Turkish troops would be withdrawn in the upcoming period. “We talked about this topic. This was not due to pleasure, it has been born out of necessity. We see that a significant step has been taken to clear Daesh from the region. In accordance with that, we will resolve this topic in a friendly manner,” said Yıldırım in a joint press conference with al-Abadi on Jan. 7, in Baghdad. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Iraq wants withdrawal
Iraq, however, insisted on an immediate withdrawal of troops in the joint statement.
“The parties have emphasized that the Bashiqa Camp is an Iraqi camp. By stating that it preserves its position on the Bashiqa camp, Iraqi side underlined the need to resolve this situation by having Turkey beginning the process to withdraw its forces,” it said.
Al-Abadi said an agreement had been reached with Turkey over an Iraqi demand that Turkish forces withdraw from the Bashiqa camp, Iraqi state TV reported, according to Reuters. The Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq caused a rift between Turkey and Iraq, after the Iraqi parliament issued a decree for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the camp. Turkey is training local forces at the Bashiqa camp to combat ISIL inside Iraq.
Iraqi forces and Peshmerga to clear Sinjar of PKK
An equally important item on the agenda is the fight against the PKK which has been using Iraqi territory as its main headquarters and trying to expand its influence in Sinjar province, which it helped free of ISIL control in western Iraq.
Both Yıldırım and al-Abadi raised the issue during a joint press conference with the Turkish prime minister, saying, “The necessary work will be done regarding the clearing of Sinjar of terror elements together with the Peshmerga and Iraqi central government forces.”
“Sinjar poses a first-degree threat to us and we thank [the Iraqi] prime minister’s sensitivity in eliminating the threat,” said Yıldırım.
On Jan. 4, al-Abadi took a strong stance against the PKK using Iraq’s territory to attack Turkey. “We cannot accept the PKK’s use of Iraqi soil to launch attacks against Turkey. Our constitution also does not allow such things,” al-Abadi said at a press conference, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Jan. 4.
“We will continue cooperation [with Iraq] regarding terror facilities that aim at our country not only from Sinjar but from all of Iraqi territory,” said Yıldırım on Jan. 7.
PKK’s expansion to West not acceptable
In Arbil, Yıldırım held meetings with both Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Massoud Barzani. Massoud Barzani and Yıldırım held a press conference following their meeting.
“Both DAESH and the PKK as well as FETÖ [Fethullahist Terror Organization] are not only the issue of Turkey but of the region of Iraq and of Syria,” he said, calling on the international community to give more support on this fight against what he calls a “perverted organization.”
The PKK’s use of Iraqi soil to attack Turkey cannot be acceptable and whatever necessary to stop it will be done, Yıldırım said. “The PKK’s expansion toward the West and finding shelter in Sinjar is not acceptable to us either. This is an issue of security. But not only Turkey’s, also yours. It’s also the issue of Iraqi central government. That’s why there is a need of joint work on this.”