Iraqi Kurds ask PKK to 'withdraw' from northern Iraq

Iraqi Kurds ask PKK to 'withdraw' from northern Iraq

BAGHDAD – The Associated Press
Iraqi Kurds ask PKK to withdraw from northern Iraq

Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani.

Iraq's Kurdish regional government called on the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) to "withdraw" from Iraq's Kurdish territory Aug. 1 to prevent civilian deaths amid a campaign of Turkish airstrikes targeting the group.

A statement from the office of Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani said the PKK "should withdraw its fighters from the Kurdish region so to ensure the civilians of Kurdistan don't become victim of that fighting and conflict."

The statement also condemned Turkey for “bombing civilians,” following reports that civilian homes were damaged in airstrikes in northwestern Iraq. The statement calls on both sides to resume peace talks.

"We condemn the bombing, which led to the martyrdom of the citizens of the Kurdish region, and we call on Turkey to not to repeat the bombing of civilians," the statement added, and called upon both sides to resume a Kurdish peace process.

Turkey launched airstrikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq last week, its first such strikes since a peace process with the Kurds was launched in 2012. The airstrikes began as the U.S. and Turkey announced outlines of a deal to help push the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) back from a strip of territory it controls along the Syrian-Turkish border, replacing it with more-moderate rebels backed by Washington and Ankara.

On July 31, the Kurdish regional government accused the PKK of attacking an oil pipeline in northern Iraq. The Kurdish government had been selling oil directly to Turkey in a move that sparked tensions between the regional government in Irbil and the federal government in Baghdad. Those sales were stopped as part of a deal with Baghdad earlier this year, though the Kurdish government has threatened to resume sales to the international market in recent weeks.

In Syria, meanwhile, the Kurdish militia there said the Turkish military has targeted them four times since July 24, calling such attacks "provocative."

The People's Protection Units, or YPG, which have been spearheading battles against ISIL, called on the U.S.-led coalition to clarify their stance regarding the Turkish strikes. The coalition has been providing Kurds air cover in the Islamic State fight.

The YPG said that despite the fact that it has nothing to do with Turkey's fighting against the PKK, "the Turkish military monitors and targets our units." It said the Turkish acts "will have negative consequences if they continue, and Turkey's government will be held accountable for the results."