Turkey is closely following the developments in Iraq’s Sinjar district, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday, stressing that Ankara is ready to provide assistance in clearing terrorists from the region.
“Turkey is ready to provide support for eliminating terrorists in Iraq’s Sinjar region if necessary,” Akar said following his official visit to Iraq.
The defense minister noted that cooperation between Ankara and Baghdad, as well as Ankara and Irbil, will lead to important developments in terms of the fight against terrorism.
“We can say that we are determined to end terrorism as a result of our cooperation with both the regional administration and Baghdad,” he said, noting that the terrorists no longer have anywhere to hide.
During his 36-hour meeting in Iraq, Akar held nine sessions with Iraqi officials, including his counterpart, President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanmi in Baghdad, and the former KRG leader Masoud Barzani, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani and KRG PM Masrour Barzani, as well as the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Irbil.
Noting that all of his meetings in Baghdad and Irbil were productive and constructive, Akar said both sides have agreed on several bilateral issues.
The defense minister said Turkey does not want Iraq to be exploited as a tool of competition among different countries, as he said Ankara believes the issues can be solved through talks, dialogue and meetings.
Highlighting that Turkey respects the territorial integrity of all of its neighbors, Akar said the most important issue is to ensure security along the Turkey-Iraq border and facilitate stability and safety so that people can live peacefully in these areas.
The defense chief continued by saying that he has told Iraqi officials about Turkey’s determined fight against the PKK and that the Turkish military will continue its struggle until the last terrorist is eliminated.
“We’ve seen that they (the Iraqi officials) are on the same boat,” Akar said, adding that they discussed the steps that will be taken in the near future in this regard.
In response to a question about if the two countries are planning a joint operation against the PKK, Akar said the two sides have agreed to exchange information and establish mechanisms to transfer information.
Referring to the fact that the Iraqi Armed Forces are still in the process of restructuring, Akar said Turkey is also planning to provide assistance in this regard and convey its NATO know-how and experience to the Iraqi army.
“We will conduct joint training and exercises,” he said, adding that Turkey is also planning to provide support in the defense industry, including weapons, tools and ammunition production.
With regard to the presence of PKK terrorists in the Sinjar region despite the agreement, Akar said the central administration in Baghdad is still carrying out work to clear them.
Iraqi security forces started to implement a deployment plan on Dec. 1 in the center of the Sinjar district of Iraq’s Nineveh province to enhance stability and security in the area and enable displaced locals to return home.
The Sinjar deal, inked under the auspices of the United Nations on the status of the region, seeks to clear the region of PKK terrorists.
The PKK terrorist group managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar in 2014 under the pretext of protecting the Yazidi community from Daesh terrorists.
Turkey has long stressed that it will not tolerate threats posed to its national security and has called on Iraqi officials to take the necessary steps to eliminate the terrorist group. Ankara previously noted that if the expected steps are not taken, it would not shy away from targeting terrorist threats, particularly in Sinjar.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) regularly conducts cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases from which to carry out attacks in Turkey. The KRG in northern Iraq had previously called the PKK’s presence in Sinjar unacceptable and urged the militants to leave the area.