Talks between Ankara and Baghdad have intensified as the two governments are seeking to target PKK terrorist elements in Iraq in a joint operation. However, there have been mixed signals emerging from different federal ministries in Baghdad.
Several crucial meetings have taken place in recent weeks, with Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman having met with his Iraqi counterpart in Ankara and Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yıldız with Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji in Baghdad earlier this week. Yıldız also met with the Iraqi Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamily. The Turkish-Iraqi joint ground operation against the PKK was one of the main discussion points.
According to a written statement released by the Iraqi Justice Ministry following the meeting, Baghdad approached the notion of an operation positively. "The Iraqi government has shown goodwill toward all of Turkey's demands on joint border security and positively approached it. Political and security developments in the region require new agreements," it said.
However, a statement yesterday by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that Baghdad will stop any military operations by Turkish forces on Iraqi land.
"Iraq will not allow the presence of any forces that are carrying out military operations in neighboring countries on its lands," Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in a statement issued by his office following a meeting with Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yildiz.
Al-Jaafari also said that Baghdad "completely rejects the Turkish forces violation of the Iraqi border, demanding that Turkey withdraw its forces from Bashiqa town near Mosul in northern Iraq.
Turkey has a military training mission at Bashiqa, where Turkish soldiers have trained both Peshmerga fighters and local tribal volunteers in the fight against Daesh.
Kahraman said after his meeting with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim Abdullah al-Jabouri that Ankara and Baghdad would forge much stronger alliances in the upcoming period. Jabouri reportedly said, however, that Baghdad has been pleased with Ankara's help in its own fight against terrorism.
"I would like to emphasize once again, regarding the protection of the two countries, the Iraqi parliament is absolutely against terrorist organizations, especially the PKK, that could harm Turkey and the region," he said.
A joint operation against the PKK has also been brought up by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. He recently said: "Both Syria and Iraq need to be cleared of all terrorist groups, otherwise the political steps that will be taken regarding a political solution would fail."
Çavuşoğlu said that mutual steps will be taken against terrorists after the election in Iraq as both countries have agreed on the issue in previous high-level meetings. The joint steps to be taken against the PKK were discussed during Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's visit to Ankara and Çavuşoğlu's visit to Iraq.
Prefacing that Iraq has achieved essential achievements against Daesh with international support, Çavuşoğlu said: "However, during this period, the PKK infiltrated cities from Qandil and other mountains." He added that both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) would not feel secure because of the existence of terrorist groups within Iraq.
He also said that Operation Olive Branch would be completed first. Days after Çavuşoğlu's statement, Operation Olive Branch succeeded in sweeping out the People's Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin in northwestern Syria.
Ankara has long been calling on the KRG and Baghdad to put pressure on the PKK to leave the region. Even though Ankara and Irbil previously agreed to eradicate the PKK from the area, an operation never came into life.