Turkey expects the government in Iraq to officially recognise the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK, as a “terrorist” organisation, mirroring Ankara and its Western allies, its foreign minister says.
Turkey’s top diplomat, Hakan Fidan, was in Baghdad on Tuesday on his first official visit since taking office.
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Fidan, whose visit is also aimed at preparing for an upcoming trip by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – which as yet does not have an official date – described the PKK as a common enemy.
“We cannot accept PKK challenging the sovereignty of Iraq,” he told a joint news conference after sitting down with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, in the Iraqi capital.
“Sinjar, Makhmour, Qandil, Sulaimaniyah, and many other Iraqi districts have been occupied by the PKK terror group.”
Baghdad has regularly complained that Turkish air attacks in northern Iraq constitute a violation of its sovereignty, despite Ankara’s claims that it is trying to face off a force that has “occupied” parts of Iraq.
On Wednesday, Turkish intelligence announced that a PKK member had been “neutralised” in Sulaimaniyah, having been training for assassinations against security forces in Turkey.
Fidan, a former intelligence chief, is next slated to visit northern Iraq to hold talks with Kurdish officials.
The PKK, designated a “terrorist” group by the European Union and the United States as well as Turkey, launched an armed rebellion in southeast Turkey in 1984, in which more than 40,000 people have since been killed.
Turkey also targets the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers to be the Syrian branch of the PKK.
The Iraqi foreign minister on Tuesday did not directly discuss Baghdad’s plans in dealing with the PKK, but the issue has increasingly come to the fore in recent months as northern Iraq and Syria have seen intensified combat between Kurdish fighters and Turkey and groups under its support.
The issue is also expected to feature prominently when Erdogan visits Iraq, with oil exports to Turkey a central issue for northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region for years.
Authorities with the federal government in Baghdad and their counterparts in Erbil, where the Kurdish regional government is based, have long clashed over sharing oil revenues.
In an effort to bolster its autonomy, the Kurdish region in 2014 decided to unilaterally export oil to Turkey’s Ceyhan to generate an independent revenue stream.
The plan was dealt a major blow in March this year when the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris ruled that Ankara violated an old treaty with Baghdad that gives the Iraqi federal government sole authority over Iraq’s oil sales through pipelines to Turkey.
In response, Ankara shut down the pipeline on its territory, which the Kurdish government had been using to pump oil.
Kurdish government officials have been negotiating with the new administration of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad to come to a new arrangement, but it has yet to be finalised.
As the Iraqi and Turkish foreign ministers met in Baghdad, a high-ranking Iraqi delegation led by the oil minister was in Turkey.