Seven PKK fighters killed in Iraq as Turkish Foreign Minister visits Erbil

Hakan Fidan completes two-day visit to Iraq where he met top officials

Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani, right, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan during their meeting in Erbil. AP
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A Turkish drone strike killed four members of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq on Thursday, hours after a similar strike killed three militants, Iraqi Kurdish authorities said.

"Two PKK officials and two PKK emergency personnel were killed in a strike by a Turkish drone" in the mountainous Sidakan region, north of the regional capital Erbil, the counter-terrorism services of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said in a statement.

The earlier strike also hit the Sidakan region, and both came as Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan held talks with top Iraqi Kurdish officials in Erbil.

The Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK initially sought an independent Kurdish state, before changing its demands to call for an autonomous Kurdish region within Turkey.

Mr Fidan met Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, and President Nechirvan Barzani in Erbil.

They discussed regional security and energy exports during his two-day visit. It comes as Ankara pushes for Baghdad to designate the PKK a terrorist organisation, and negotiations to restart oil exports from northern Iraq.

About 450,000 barrels of oil from fields in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq have been shut in since March, after the International Court of Arbitration decided the exports through Turkey breached a 1973 agreement between the two countries.

"A Turkish army drone struck a PKK vehicle, killing an official and two fighters," the Kurdish counter-terrorism services said of the attack in the Sidakan province, close to Erbil.

Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region has long been a target of Turkish air and ground operations against the PKK.

The conflict has killed about 40,000 people, many of them civilians.

The PKK has training camps and bases in Iraqi Kurdistan. It has been designated as a terrorist group by the US and EU.

Turkey has for years called for further action from authorities in Erbil and the federal government in Baghdad to stop PKK attacks.

However, Ankara says it frequently needs to resort to military action on Iraqi land to stop the PKK's insurgency.

The meeting between Masrour Barzani and Mr Fidan was also attended by Turkey's Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar.

Turkey stopped oil flows from Iraqi Kurdistan on March 25, after losing a long-standing arbitration case brought by Iraq's central government.

Baghdad considers exports from the region via Turkey's Ceyhan port to be unconstitutional but the arbitration ruling focused on the 1973 Iraq-Turkey pipeline agreement that says oil cannot be exported from Iraqi territory without the permission of Baghdad.

Baghdad, Erbil and Ankara have now been trying to find a way to amicably resolve the energy dispute, resume exports and stem massive losses of revenue.

"We discussed a range of regional issues, including bilateral Iraq-Turkey relations and also with the Kurdistan Region, as well as the mechanism of exporting the Kurdistan region’s oil," Mr Barzani said alongside Mr Fidan after the meeting.

The two sides did not say whether a deal on Iraq's northern oil exports was reached to resume crude flows through Turkey.

Updated: August 24, 2023, 8:24 PM