Turkey, Iraq to carry out joint operation against PKK militants in Northern Iraq

VIENNA:  Turkey and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad will carry out a joint operation against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.

Cavusoglu’s comments came as Turkey pushed ahead with a cross-border military operation in northern Syria’s Afrin region against People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants, who Ankara considers terrorists for their links to the outlawed PKK.

Speaking to reporters on his flight from Germany to Austria, Cavusoglu said the joint cross-border operation with Iraq may start after Iraq holds parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2018, signaling Turkish troops may move to northern Iraq following the ongoing operation.

“Even if the Afrin operation has not yet been completed, we have the capacity to carry out both operations simultaneously,” Cavusoglu said.

The PKK has camps in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, from which it frequently carries out attacks into Turkey.

Turkey frequently holds operations on the PKK in Iraq in cross-border operations.

The Turkish General Staff said in a statement on March 1 that four PKK militants have been “neutralized” in air strikes, launched after the militants opened fire at military posts.

The minister’s statement came after the Turkish General Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar met with his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Othman al-Ghanimi in Baghdad on March 1.

In January, Turkey and Iraq vowed to improve bilateral relations in all fields, including the economy, energy and security matters, Cavusoglu and his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, despite ongoing problems regarding water sharing and the continued presence of Turkish troops in the Bashiqa camp in Iraq.

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