Turkey calls for Iraq to designate PKK a terrorist group

Kurdistan Workers’ Party has carried out deadly attacks against the country for four decades

A Turkish helicopter flies over mountains during an attack on a Kurdistan Workers' Party camp, near the Turkish-Iraqi border. AFP
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Turkey wants the Iraqi government and authorities in the northern Kurdish region to officially recognise the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organisation, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has said.

A ministry statement issued late on Tuesday stopped short of claiming responsibility for Monday’s drone attack in northern Iraq that killed three counter-terrorism service members and wounded three others.

Iraq has said the drone crossed the border from Turkey and hit a small airport of Arbid, in the province of Sulaymaniyah, calling it an “aggression” and “violation” of the country's sovereignty.

Sulaymaniyah is one of three provinces that make up Iraq’s Kurdish region. It is under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two main parties that hold significant influence in the region.

Ankara has long accused the PUK of supporting the PKK and a Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the PKK.

“It is understood that the members of the PUK’s anti-terrorist group were conducting a training exercise together with PKK/YPG terrorists at the time of the explosion,” the ministry statement said.

“This development is quite disturbing as it has clearly revealed the co-operation between PUK’s security apparatus and members of the terrorist organisation.”

It referred to the attack as an explosion.

Turkey has called for the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government to “designate PKK and its affiliates as terrorist organisation and to fight terrorism in a sincere and concrete manner”.

Ambassador summoned

On Tuesday, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid said he would summon Turkey's ambassador and hand him a formal letter of protest.

Mr Rashid described the attack as an "aggression targeting innocent civilians and military and security headquarters".

"Day after day, systematic military attacks on Iraqi territory, specifically in the Kurdish region, are escalating without military or security justification," he said.

Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool condemned the attack as a “violation of the sovereignty of Iraq, its security and the safety of its lands”.

"Launching consecutive military attacks targeting cities and civilians, in addition to the military personnel, is a violation of international law and contradicts the principles of good neighbourly relations," Mr Rasool said.

The PKK rebel group has bases in northern Iraq, from which it has launched attacks against Turkey in a decades-long push to gain greater autonomy for the Kurdish people.

The conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK in Iraq escalated in the 1990s, when Turkey launched several ground operations in northern Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War.

Since then, Ankara has launched several military operations in Iraq against the group. These operations have been expanded in recent years in northern Iraq with military troops on the ground backed by air strikes and artillery.

Updated: September 20, 2023, 8:49 AM