Serbest Lezgin, the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) deputy minister of Peshmerga affairs, criticized the PKK's Syrian branch, the YPG, for targeting Peshmerga forces and urged the international coalition to condemn the attack.
The YPG terrorists carried out an attack against the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq across the Syrian border using heavy weapons, Anadolu Agency (AA) quoted Lezgin as saying.
Lezgin told reporters in Irbil that clashes took place after YPG terrorists tried to enter KRG-administered territory near the Syrian border.
“A group of eight armed PKK fighters attempted to enter KRG through illegal means in the night hours,” Lezgin said, adding that Peshmerga forces took action upon seeing the attempt.
The terrorists were planning to secretly infiltrate the territory by crossing the river, according to the deputy minister, who noted that official crossings are done through the border gate between the two regions.
A group of 50 to 60 YPG terrorists then opened fire on the Peshmerga forces at around 4 a.m. local time, according to Lezgin, who noted that the attack lasted for about an hour and a half. He did not comment on the number of casualties.
Calling the attack brutal, Lezgin said the Peshmerga responded in kind and pushed the YPG back to Syrian territory.
“It is very well known that the YPG is acting based on the directions and instructions of the PKK,” Lezgin said, adding that it is unfortunate U.S.-led coalition forces have supported the YPG in the name of fighting Daesh.
“On this opportunity, as the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, we urge the international coalition forces to display a stance against last night’s attack and strongly condemn it,” Lezgin said.
Touching upon the statements of the YPG’s ringleader Ferhat Abdi Şahin, codenamed Mazloum Kobani, Lezgin said the ringleader’s statements were dictated by his masters in Mount Qandil, where the PKK’s headquarters are located.
Meanwhile, the Peshmerga have been instructed to defend themselves in the face of an attack by the PKK or any other unofficial force, the deputy minister said.
Several Peshmerga soldiers were killed earlier this month in PKK terrorist attacks in northern Duhok. The KRG said the PKK's attack on the region's forces crossed a "red line."
The PKK managed to establish a foothold in northern Iraq's Sinjar in mid-2014 under the pretext of protecting the local Yazidi community from the Daesh terrorist group. Since then, the PKK has reportedly established a new base in Sinjar for its logistical and command-and-control activities. Around 450,000 Yazidis escaped Sinjar after Daesh took control of the region in mid-2014.
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.
Following the announcement of a deal signed between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG in October to restore stability in Sinjar, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it hoped the agreement would enable the reinstatement of Iraqi authorities’ control in Sinjar and lead to the eradication of the Daesh and PKK terrorist groups and their offshoots from the region.
Turkey, Iraq on same page against PKK
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey will provide assistance to Iraq to help them push out PKK terrorists.
“There has recently been a consensus in Iraq regarding the PKK,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the implementation of the Sinjar deal was especially important for the future of Iraq.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein, Çavuşoğlu pledged to help the country in its efforts against the terrorist group.
Highlighting the PKK's attacks on Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Çavuşoğlu said that the PKK does not represent the Kurds and that the group is the enemy of the Kurdish people.
“It attacks all Kurds who refuse to obey it in Turkey, Iraq and Syria,” the foreign minister said, adding this is why the group attacks Kurds in northern Iraq.
Çavuşoğlu noted that the PKK terrorists also continue to carry out attacks against the Kurds in Sulaymaniyah.
“They also indiscriminately oppress all other ethnic groups, including the Assyrians, Yazidis, Arabs, and Sunnis and Shias,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is also expected to pay an official visit to Turkey on Thursday at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Steps to be taken to enhance the cooperation between the two countries particularly related to the fight against terror, reconstruction of Iraq, trade and energy will be discussed and the bilateral relations will be addressed in depth, a statement by the Directorate of Communications said Wednesday.
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 had previously called the PKK's presence in Sinjar unacceptable and urged the militants to leave the area.
On Monday, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called for renewed efforts to stop the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the YPG, from exploiting foreign aid, in a phone call with U.S. Syria envoy Joel Rayburn.
Although the U.S. recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization, it denies the group's connection with the YPG despite the ideological and organizational links between the groups. Washington views the YPG as a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh terrorist group and continues to provide it with arms and equipment.