Turkey, US to talk on PKK fight in July: FM
Turkey and the United States are expected to come together in July to discuss cooperation in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, adding that Ankara is also in talks with Tehran on its ongoing anti-terror campaign in northern Iraq.
Çavuşoğlu said in a televised interview on June 13 that a Turkish-American joint group that was set up specifically to coordinate the fight against the PKK particularly in Iraq will convene in the Turkish capital in July 2018 the latest.
“Preparations [for the working group meeting] are underway. Initial preparations for cleansing Iraq from the PKK, on what should be done against the PKK’s senior leaders and on intelligence sharing are continuing,” Çavuşoğlu told Habertürk TV.
The announcement on the meeting comes as the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launched a cross-border operation into northern Iraq with the objective of wiping out PKK militants from Kandil Mountain where they have their main headquarters and training camps.
Turkish warplanes have been heavily bombarding PKK targets in the region while ground forces are setting up regional bases for a long-term stay and to continue the fight against the militants in northern Iraq.
“This cooperation [against the PKK] also includes the Iraqi central and regional governments along with the U.S.,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding: “This [terrorist presence in northern Iraq] is a serious threat to us. We have to eliminate this threat one way or another.”
Turkey has been continuously urging the Iraqi central government in Baghdad and the regional government in Erbil to act together against the PKK as it is a threat to them as well, the minister said. “We have supported them against DAESH [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL]. Now it’s time to clear [Iraq] of the PKK,” he added.
Turkey’s campaign will include the Kandil Mountain, Sinjar region on the Iraqi-Syrian border and the U.N.-led Mahmour refugee camp, Çavuşoğlu said. “Kandil has become the symbol of it. We have no other option but to eliminate all these terrorists wherever they are in Iraq and Syria.”
Turkey in contact with Iran
Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey is in contact with Iran about conducting a military operation against the PKK in the northern Iraqi region of Kandil by the Iranian border.
“We are in contact with Iran,” Çavuşoğlu told. “PKK is a threat to them as well. Kandil is very close to the Iranian border ... We will improve cooperation with Iran.”
Recent reports have suggested that senior PKK members have been escaping to Iran from the Turkish military operations
YPG withdrawal hasn’t begun yet
Çavuşoğlu also spoke about ongoing talks with the U.S. over a road map on Manbij, a northwestern Syrian city, over which the two allies recently brokered a deal for the withdrawal of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), PKK’s Syria affiliation, to the east of the Euphrates River.
The withdrawal has not yet begun but details are being discussed between the officials of two sides, he stressed, repeating that Turkish and American troops will jointly patrol the area after the YPG leaves.
He reiterated that Manbij will be governed by local people — overwhelmingly by Arabs — and the model will be applied to other districts in eastern Syria where the YPG “had changed demographic structures.”
“Not only Manbij’s but Kobane’s [demographic] balance has been harmed. The YPG has not only sent Arabs into exile but also Turks,” he said.