Turkey insists that Iraq clear Makhmour refugee camp of Kurdish militants

Ankara describes the camp in northern Iraq as an 'incubator' for PKK militants

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a joint news conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens, Greece, May 31, 2021. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

Turkey repeated its demand that Iraq clear a northern refugee camp of Kurdish militants, days after a Turkish air strike killed three there.

Ankara claims that the Makhmour camp, 180 kilometres south of the Turkish border which has hosted Turkish Kurd refugees for more than 20 years, is an "incubator" for militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said clearing the camp of PKK militants was the Iraqi government's responsibility, but Turkey would do it if necessary.

Ankara is in talks with Iraqi officials over the matter, he told state broadcaster TRT Haber on Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week compared Makhmour to the Mount Qandil region along Iraq's eastern frontier, where the outlawed PKK has rear bases.

Turkish air strikes killed three people at the camp at the weekend, including a senior PKK member, Kurdish officials said.

The air strikes on Saturday took place after five Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters were killed in a clashes with the PKK in the Mount Matin district of northern Duhok province, an official said.

The PKK has waged a rebellion in the mainly Kurdish south-east of Turkey that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.

The PKK maintains rear bases in northern Iraq, from where they train their fighters and launch attacks on Turkey, which has hit back with air attacks and the occasional ground incursion into Iraq.

"How long do we have to be patient?” Mr Erdogan said.

Makhmour camp was established in the early 1990s, when thousands of Kurds from Turkey crossed the border in a movement Ankara believes was provoked by the PKK.