Turkey claims to 'neutralise' four PKK operatives in Iraq as NATO bid veto on Sweden, Finland lifted

Turkey claims to 'neutralise' four PKK operatives in Iraq as NATO bid veto on Sweden, Finland lifted
Just as Sweden and Finland pledged to support Turkey's fight against PKK operatives as part of their bid to join NATO, Ankara announced on Tuesday that four Kurdish militants had been 'neutralised' in northern Iraq.
3 min read
29 June, 2022
Since April, Turkey said it has 'neutralised' dozens of PKK operatives in northern Iraq [source: Getty]

Turkey claimed on Tuesday to have "neutralised" four operatives from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, hours after it finally welcomed Sweden and Finland's bid to join NATO, a move it blocked for weeks over security concerns relating to Kurdish militants,  

Ankara launched a renewed cross-border offensive, named Operation Claw-Lock, against the PKK in Iraq in April, which it views as a terrorist organisation threatening national sovereignty. 

Over the last three months, Turkey has claimed it killed, captured or forced to surrender dozens of Kurdish militants in the neighbouring country, as part of efforts Ankara says will prevent "the formation of a terror corridor", according to Anadolu Agency.   

On Tuesday, Turkish media reported that "four more PKK terrorists" were “neutralised,” giving scant details about the operation.

It came just as international leaders praised a "key memorandum" between Ankara, Sweden and Finland that will enable NATO enlargement in exchange for western commitments to help Ankara fight the PKK and its affiliate groups.

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"As prospective NATO allies, Finland and Sweden extend their full support to Turkiye against threats to its national security," said the Trilateral Memorandum between Turkey, Sweden and Finland. 

"Finland and Sweden confirm that the PKK is a proscribed terrorist organisation. Finland and Sweden commit to prevent activities of the PKK and all other terrorist organisations and their extensions."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initially vetoed the Nordic countries' NATO bids on grounds that they allegedly supported Kurdish militants - namely the People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Syria.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organisation - the same as the PKK - however, the US and European countries previously partnered with the group to fight the Islamic State group and have not given the YPG a terrorist designation. 

In exchange for lifting his veto, Erdogan demanded Sweden and Finland support Ankara's security concerns, extradite individuals linked to the Kurdish militant groups, and drop an arms embargo against Turkey.

After four hours of talks at the NATO summit in Madrid this week, an agreement was reached between the three nations in which Sweden and Finland offered their "full cooperation" to Turkey together with lifting the arms embargo and "addressing" deportation orders. 

US President Joe Biden lauded the agreement as a "crucial step" for NATO, while the organisation's General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg praised the "constructive spirit that made this historic decision possible" on social media. 

The Madrid NATO summit is expected to focus on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Turkey has also proposed incursions into northern Syria.

Kurdish communities accuse Turkey of infringing on their human and political rights and are with few global advocates or allies.