Turkish Army hits PKK targets in northern Iraq amid tensions with Baghdad

Turkish Army hits PKK targets in northern Iraq amid tensions with Baghdad

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Turkish Army hits PKK targets in northern Iraq amid tensions with Baghdad

AA Photo

The Turkish Armed Forces staged a cross-border aerial campaign in northern Iraq to hit outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in the Kandil Mountains amid tensions with the central government in Baghdad over Turkey’s deployment of troops near Mosul. 

According to a statement by the Turkish General Staff, 10 F-16 fighter jets launched an attack between 10 p.m. and 10:50 p.m. on Dec. 8. 

“PKK targets in the Kandil, Hakurk, Zap and Avaşîn-Basyan regions in northern Iraq were destroyed in an aerial campaign,” the statement said. 

Tensions have recently escalated between Turkey and Iraq, as the central Iraqi government has slammed the recent of additional Turkish troops to the camp, vowing to take its case to the United Nations if Turkey did not withdraw. 

A much-anticipated counter-offensive by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul from ISIL has been repeatedly postponed because they are tied down in fighting elsewhere. 

Iraq has urged the international community to provide more weapons and training in its battle against the militants, but rejects most forms of direct intervention, mistrusting the intentions of foreign powers. 

A small number of Turkish trainers were already at the camp near Mosul before the latest deployment on Dec. 3 in order to train the Hashid Watani (national mobilization), a force made up of mainly former Iraqi police or Sunni Arab origin and volunteers from Mosul.

Meanwhile, The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Dec. 9 issued a travel warning for its citizens planning to travel to Iraq.

The ministry “strongly” advised citizens to be in vigilant in all conditions, to avoid crowded places, to enhance security measures, to limit their travels inside the country except mandatory conditions and to have contact with Turkey’s Baghdad Embassy.

However, the warning excluded the provinces of Duhok, Arbil and Suleymaniye in northern Iraq.

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations on Dec. 8 also appeared to play down a dispute between Baghdad and Ankara over the deployment of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, saying bilateral talks between the neighboring states to end the row were proceeding favorably. 

"We are solving it between Baghdad and Ankara bilaterally," Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told reporters after Russia raised the issue of Turkey's deployment during a closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

"We have not yet escalated it to the Security Council or to the United Nations," he said, adding that Moscow had not consulted with Baghdad before raising the issue in the council. 

"For us, what is helpful is the bilateral discussion going on right now between Baghdad and Ankara, and it's going extremely well,"

But Alhakim reiterated that Iraq wanted the Turkish troops withdrawn from its territory immediately, saying the deployment was "illegal," and a violation of the United Nations charter. 

On the same day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked NATO to put pressure on alliance member Turkey to withdraw its troops immediately from northern Iraq after Ankara said it would not deploy any more but refused to pull out those already there. 

"NATO must use its authority to urge Turkey to withdraw immediately from Iraqi territory," al-Abadi said in a statement, posted after a 48-hour deadline set by Baghdad for a withdrawal of the troops expired. 

Abadi spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by telephone, the statement added, calling the deployment a violation of Iraq's sovereignty.