Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan threatened the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with ‘further action’ during a parliamentary session on Tuesday in which he accused the PUK of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a connection he links to a recent increase in Turkish military casualties in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
This threat was made during debates over a motion officially titled, ‘Resolution on the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Uncompromising Support for the Fight against Terrorism.’ The resolution, which received a majority support, was discussed alongside Defence Minister Yaşar Güler.
In his address, Fidan elaborated on the PUK’s alleged role in enabling PKK activities in Sulaimani and its nearby regions, thereby strengthening the Kurdish group’s presence in the area.
“The opening up of areas in Sulaimani and its surroundings by the PUK to the PKK has led to the organisation’s increasing strength in this region. The decrease in the presence of Peshmerga in disputed areas has resulted in the establishment of tactical relations between certain Iraqi militia forces and the PKK,” Fidan said.
Ankara has consistently alleged close ties between the PUK and PKK, leading to multiple strikes in Sulaimani. The PUK, based in Sulaimani, has refuted these claims.
Fidan cited recent incidents in the KRI as evidence of the PUK-PKK relationship, referencing the September drone strike on Arbat airport, 27 kilometres southeast of Sulaimani. This attack killed three members of the PUK-affiliated Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) and injured three others. Turkey, while not directly accepting responsibility, indicated the CTG was training with YPG fighters at the time.
“It has become increasingly evident that the PUK has been providing training to PKK-YPG [People’s Protection Units] elements in Syria, as highlighted by the incidents involving SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] helicopters falling in northern Iraq and the events at Arbat Airport; this situation also reveals the dimensions of the relationship between the PUK and the PKK. Despite our sanctions towards Sulaimani, if the PUK does not change its sympathetic stance towards the PKK, we will not hesitate to take more advanced measures,” Fidan asserted.
Another cited incident was a helicopter crash in March in the Duhok province of the Kurdistan Region, claiming the lives of nine SDF fighters. The SDF attributed the crash to bad weather, but Turkey views it as further proof of PUK-PKK connections.
Fidan alleged Ankara’s stance that its military operations, including increased bombardments in the KRI and North and East Syria (known as Rojava), are acts of self-defence and align with international law. He warned that these operations would continue, targeting key civilian infrastructure.
Accompanying Fidan, Turkish Defence Minister Yasar Guler informed MPs of Turkey’s establishment of a “safety line” deep into the Kurdistan Region along the Turkish border. Fidan also noted the lack of objection from Iraqi officials to Turkey’s recent operations within the Kurdistan Region’s borders, highlighting the Iraqi government’s “more constructive stance” in what Ankara describes as “fighting terrorism.”
“As part of our strategy to eliminate the terrorist threat at its source, we initiated the Claw operations in 2019. These operations have significantly curtailed the PKK’s mobility in northern Iraq and reduced their capability to target Turkey,” asserted Minister Güler. Refraining from addressing the high casualty rate in these cross-border operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, “The success of these operations is evident in the reduced number of attacks and casualties within our borders, proving our strategy’s effectiveness in combating terrorism at its roots,” he claimed.
This development follows a high-level meeting in December, where an Iraqi delegation, led by Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, visited Ankara to discuss security and intelligence cooperation. Turkey’s ongoing military actions in the region, particularly air and drone strikes targeting suspected PKK positions, continue to raise concerns about regional stability and the broader implications for Kurdish-Turkish relations.