Turkey is seeking to mobilise Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to join forces in a military campaign against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) forces entrenched in various regions, including Turkey, the Kurdistan Region, Qandil (Qendîl) and Sinjar (Shengal), Jabar Yawar, a former secretary of the Peshmerga Ministry in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), told VOA.
Yawar’s comments come after a high-level Turkish military delegation, led by Defence Minister Yaşar Güler and General Metin Gürak, concluded a series of meetings in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. The visit has sparked speculation about Turkey’s intentions regarding a possible military operation against the PKK guerrillas, as revealed by Yawar.
The former official emphasised Turkey’s aim to avoid the loss of its soldiers in this operation by entrusting the bulk of the fighting to Peshmerga forces, potentially reigniting fratricidal conflict.
However, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has reportedly denied these claims. In response to the allegations, KRG spokesman Peshawa Hawramany clarified that the visit by Turkish military officials was primarily aimed at strengthening bilateral security measures and enhancing cooperation between neighbouring nations.
The talks come amid escalating tensions between Turkey and Kurdish groups and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s threat to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for not heeding their demands regarding PKK activities in Sulaymaniyah. Fidan recently stated in an interview that Ankara is prepared to take “further actions” if the PUK continues its current stance on the PKK, which involves not preventing the group from accessing infrastructure in the Sulaymaniyah province.
However, during Güler’s visit, he also engaged in discussions with the KRG Deputy Prime Minister and PUK member Qubad Talabani on Wednesday. Talabani said in a statement following the meeting that he called for the opening of Turkish airspace to flights to Sulaymaniyah International Airport.
The Turkish Defence Ministry refrained from divulging specifics of the meeting, as per their tweet, maintaining discretion regarding the contents of the discussions.
Meanwhile, former Iraqi President Barham Salih, a member of the PUK, has recently travelled to Ankara to act as a mediator between Turkey and the PUK, according to journalist Amed Dicle.
The suspension of flights since April 2023 has significantly impacted travel and trade links between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey, with alleged concerns over PKK activities cited as the primary reason for the cessation.
The spectre of a possible Turkish military operation looms large over the Kurdistan Region, with official statistics indicating a significant escalation in Turkish military activity along the Iraqi-Turkish border. The presence of numerous military bases and frequent aerial bombardments pose a significant threat to the civilian population and have led to the evacuation of villages.