US calls for Turkey-Iraq cooperation to tackle PKK

US calls for Turkey-Iraq cooperation to tackle PKK
2 min read
26 August, 2020
The call comes at a time of increasing tensions between the two countries over Turkey’s killing of two Iraqi officers.
Turkey says the PKK launch attacks from within the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq [Getty]

US diplomats in Iraq have called on the governments of Turkey and Iraq to "cooperate" over the presence of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq.

Probed for Washington's position on Turkey's offensive against the PKK, launched mid-June, David Copley, Deputy Secretary for Iraq, said he would to like to see Ankara and Baghdad "work closely to address concerns about the PKK's presence" in the autonomous region.

"It's important to respect Iraqi sovereignty. It's also important to recognise that Turkey has legitimate security interests," he told a special briefing of reporters via teleconference.

"We think the best way to solve this is for both parties to work together," the diplomat added.

The call comes amod increasing tensions between the two countries over Ankara's efforts to combat the militant group's contentious presence in the mountainous region of northern Iraq, dubbed Operation Claw Eagle.

While Turkey's military presence in the area stretches back decades, the NATO member last month launched a cross-border ground and air operation against the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan in mid-June.

Last week, Kurdish militants shot down a Turkish helicopter in retaliation over the death of one of its commanders a week earlier.

The Turkish attack also killed two high-ranking Iraqi officers, angering Baghdad who responded by cancelling a state visit by Ankara's defence minister and summoned the ambassador for a dressing down.

Read more: The Iraq Report: Diplomatic spat with Turkey intensifies

A government official for Iraqi Kurdistan, whose semi-autonomous rulers maintain good relations with Turkey, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site that diplomatic efforts to ease the crisis with Baghdad were underway.

Ankara has expressed frustration over both Erbil and Baghdad's inability to combat the PKK, which frequently uses the northern Iraq as a base from which to strike Turkish targets. 

Ankara defends its right to attack the PKK, which it considers a "terrorist" organisation.

Iraqi authorities continue to criticise Turkey's military operations, which have resulted in the death of civilians, but their protests have gone unheeded.

While Iran-backed militias have already eroded Iraq's ability to assert sovereignty within its borders, analysts cite the Turkish encroachment as a further sign of Baghdad's crumbling state power.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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