Turkey summons Iran envoy over remarks on Iraq operations

Turkey says the PKK presence in Iraq is a national security threat and it is Baghdad’s responsibility to take action against the rebels.

Turkey - PKK
Turkish soldiers have battled PKK fighters in Turkey and Iraq [File: Reuters]

Turkey summoned the Iranian ambassador to the country on Sunday over remarks alleging Ankara has violated Iraq’s sovereignty, state media reported.

Ambassador Mohammad Farazmand was called in to Turkey’s foreign ministry after Iran’s ambassador to Iraq made the comments about Ankara’s cross-border military offensive against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters based in northern Iraq.

Iranian envoy Iraj Masjedi criticised Turkey’s operations in an interview with the Rudaw news agency on Saturday.

Ministry officials expressed Turkey’s “rejection of the accusations levelled by Iran’s envoy in Baghdad, underlining that Ankara is fighting the PKK terrorist organisation, which targets Iraq’s stability”, Anadolu news agency reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

Farazmand was told Ankara expects “Iran to support, not oppose, Turkey’s fight against terrorism”.

Turkey’s envoy to Iraq also denounced the comments in a Twitter post on Saturday.

“Ambassador of Iran would be the last person to lecture Turkey about respecting borders of Iraq,” Fatih Yildiz said.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the Turkish envoy to Tehran to formally protest “unacceptable” comments by Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who had said PKK members have a presence on Iranian soil.

The Iranian foreign ministry also criticised “unjustified” remarks by Yildiz.

‘Reject military intervention’

Turkey says the PKK presence in Iraq is a national security threat and it is Baghdad’s responsibility to take action against the rebels. Ankara has vowed it would defend its borders as long as the group operates in the region.

Masjedi said in the interview: “We reject military intervention in Iraq and Turkish forces should not pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil. The security of the Iraqi area should be maintained by Iraqi forces and [Kurdistan] region forces in their area.

“We do not accept at all – be it Turkey or any other country – to intervene in Iraq militarily or advance or have a military presence in Iraq.”

Turkey launched the Claw-Tiger Operation in June 2000 in northern Iraq’s Haftanin region. It has targeted PKK positions with hundreds of air strikes and deployed special forces into the area.

The PKK – designated a “terrorist” group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union – took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict focused in southeast Turkey.

The Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq, dominated by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP), see the PKK as a worrying presence but have never been able to uproot it from northern Iraqi bases.

Maziar Motamedi contributed to this report from Tehran

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies