Iraq summoned Turkey’s envoy in Baghdad to protest the visit by its defence chief to a military base in northern Iraq as Turkish troops continue a cross-border offensive against Kurdish fighters there.
The Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday it handed the Turkish charge d’affaires “a protest note” over “violations of Iraqi sovereignty” by defence minister Hulusi Akar’s trip to the Turkish facility.
Akar visited the Turkish base in northern Iraq on Saturday – accompanied by Chief of the General Staff General Yasar Guler and Turkish Land Forces Commander Umit Dundar – to supervise military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) armed group.
According to the statement quoted by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the Turkish diplomat was told Baghdad “categorically rejects the continuing violations of Iraqi sovereignty … by the Turkish military forces”.
Baghdad has protested Turkey’s military operations on its soil various times in the past.
According to Anadolu, Turkey told Iraq that its cross-border operations and bases are not a violation of Iraqi sovereignty but an effort to eradicate the rebel group. Turkey also stressed its respect for Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The PKK, listed as a “terrorist group” by Ankara and much of the international community, has been using Iraq’s northern mountains as a springboard in its decades-long rebellion against the Turkish state.
The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border incursions and air attacks against PKK bases in northern Iraq.
Two weeks ago, the Turkish military launched new operations against the PKK in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. The Metina area, close to the border, is the focus of Operation Claw-Thunderbolt and Operation Claw-Lightning.
In February, Turkey announced that the PKK had executed 13 captives – including Turkish military and police personnel – during operations in northern Iraq where the group was holding them.
The PKK has waged an armed rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984 that has killed an estimated 40,000 people from both sides.
In the last two years, Turkey’s fight against the PKK has increasingly focused on northern Iraq, where the group has its stronghold in the Qandil mountains on the Iranian border.