Turkey to intervene in Sinjar if Iraq doesn’t: Erdoğan
Turkey will launch an operation into Iraq’s northern Sinjar region if Iraqi forces do not fully carry out an operation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed, while an Iraqi military spokesperson said their army was deployed in the region controlled by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
“Our hope is that Iraq will complete the operation there thoroughly. If there is a problem achieving this goal, we will conduct our bilateral meetings and be the ones who will do what is necessary in Sinjar,” Erdoğan said on March 26, speaking ahead of his trip to Bulgaria’s Varna for a summit with European Union leaders.
The PKK took control over Sinjar in 2015 after defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who took the region from the Yazidi minority community in 2014.
Sources in northern Iraq said on March 23 that the PKK would withdraw from the Sinjar area.
Iraqi military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool said on March 26 that Iraqi troops were deployed to Sinjar, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Rasool said the 15th brigade of the army had been deployed with heavy weapons in Sinjar and the district’s Sinun town.
Erdoğan said Ankara had received information about “an initiation for an operation,” to the region, stating that “we are closely monitoring the issue whether it is totally finished or not.”
“They might have a partial intervention. An Iraqi envoy will be visiting Turkey [on March 26] to meet with our [National Intelligence Organization] chief,” he said, adding “we will have a healthy result following these meetings.”
Erdoğan has been voicing Ankara’s disturbance over the presence of the PKK in Sinjar, as it considers it a terrorist organization and an imminent threat.
On March 19, Erdoğan referred to Sinjar as the PKK’s “second Qandil [Mountains],” where the outlawed group has had a base for years in northern Iraq.
He reiterated his comments on March 25, stating that “operations have begun there.”
“We said we would go into Sinjar. Now operations have begun there. The fight is internal and external,” he said in the northeastern province of Trabzon.
Turkey initiated a military operation into Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin in January against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers as the Syrian extension of the PKK.
Vowing to continue operations in Syria “until the terrorist threat is eliminated,” Erdoğan said on March 25 that Turkish-backed forces, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), would take control of the Syrian town of Tel Rifaat and then continue operations into Manbij, a city over which the U.S. and Turkey have had tension.
EU membership Turkey’s ‘strategic goal’
Speaking to journalists before leaving for the EU summit on March 26, Erdoğan said Ankara considers Turkey’s full EU membership as a “strategic goal.”
“We have pursued our journey with the full membership goal while overcoming the barriers and mines installed on our path. Today, membership to the EU continues to be our strategic goal,” he said.
He added that he would convey Ankara’s expectation for the revitalization of the accession process to the EU leaders.
“We will state our expectation of the artificial and political obstacles that our country has faced during the negotiation process to be lifted, in addition to regional and security issues,” he said.