Turkey, Iran on same page for military cooperation against PKK

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 08.11.2017 20:35
Updated 08.11.2017 20:36
Turkish tanks are seen near the Habur border gate between Turkey and Iraq during a military drill, Sept. 18.
Turkish tanks are seen near the Habur border gate between Turkey and Iraq during a military drill, Sept. 18.

Ankara and Tehran's military convergence following the reciprocal visits of top generals became noticeable as Turkey's Defense Ministry sources revealed how the two countries' annoyance over the PKK presence on their borders may prompt a joint military operation

Ankara and Tehran have an understanding on a joint operation against the PKK. The militaries of the two countries recently shared intelligence in engaging some of the terrorist group's positions in northern Iraq, several Turkish media outlets claimed. The reports, based on information from Defense Ministry sources, showed that a consensus was reached for an operation against the PKK in northern Iraq during the recent visit from Iranian Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Bagheri to Ankara. Although media reports said that the timing and place of the operation against the PKK was not shared, sources pointed to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statement that the Turkish military could suddenly launch an operation overnight.

"Just as we've liberated Jarablus, al-Rai and al-Bab from Daesh in Syria, if need be, we won't shy away from such steps in Iraq," he said in late September. "We may come there overnight all of a sudden."

Meanwhile, the Aydınlık newspaper claimed on Tuesday that a Turkish airstrike in northern Iraq on the PKK was carried out in collaboration with the Iranian military. An article in Aydınlık claimed that the Iranian military provided intelligence to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), and an airstrike was conducted on PKK positions.

Recently, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour said Tehran is not against an operation with Ankara against the PKK. "Iran and Turkey share the same borders. There are also triple boundaries. We have always cooperated on the borders of Iran and Turkey. We do not allow the PKK to cross our borders and carry out terrorist activities in Turkey. We are warmly looking for a common fight against terrorism," he said.

Gulam Riza Bagheri, director for Turkey, Russia, Central Asia and Caucasus Countries Affairs in the Iranian Foreign Ministry, last week said that the Turkish-Iranian Anti-Terrorism Coordination Mechanism has been reactivated.

Previously, Gen. Bagheri visited Turkey, and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was received in Tehran. Akar met with Bagheri in early October, and both generals underscored that bilateral cooperation will increase in the areas of security and counterterrorism.

Erdoğan had also pointed to a joint operation with Iran against the terrorist group in recent months. "A joint operation with Iran against terrorist groups that pose a threat is always on the agenda," he said in late August.

"We have discussed the details on what kind of work we can carry out among us. There is damage that the PKK and its branch in Iran cause. We will carry out these discussions with the understanding that threats can be defeated with the cooperation of both countries in a short time."

The two countries are also on the same page regarding the independence referendum held in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sept. 25 and the status of Idlib. Ankara and Tehran have vehemently opposed an independent KRG since the first day of its announcement. A joint declaration against the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan was issued following a trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iraq and Iran prior to the referendum. Opposing the referendum, the ministers said that it violated the Iraqi constitution and expressed concern over the referendum creating further instability in the region.

In the aftermath of the vote, the two countries put pressure on Irbil with political and economic sanctions.

Furthermore, in a written statement on Oct. 9, the TSK confirmed that Turkish forces crossed into the Syrian city of Idlib on Oct. 8 for reconnaissance as part of a peace effort.

The statement said the goals of the de-escalation zones, which were declared on Dec. 30, 2016, and guaranteed by Turkey, Russia and Iran through the Astana process, aim to increase the effectiveness of the ceasefire agreement, end armed clashes, provide humanitarian aid to those in need, establish proper conditions for displaced people to return and establish conditions for a peaceful resolution of the war.

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