Turkey will clear the PKK elements south of its border and take matters into its own hands regarding the fight against terrorism, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday.
Referring to the terrorist threats in northern Iraq, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey "will clear the terrorists across the border," as he identified the PKK as a threat to the other countries in the region.
Turkey launched a military operation against the PKK in northern Iraq's Qandil mountains Monday. The mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq's Irbil province, are being used as the headquarters for the PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK).
"The PKK's presence in Iraq is a great threat to us," Çavuşoğlu said. He reiterated Ankara's calls on Iraqi officials to cooperate, identifying the PKK as a threat to both countries.
A working group on the PKK, formed between the U.S., Turkey and Iraq has also started to hold meetings, the minister said. Both the Iraq Central Government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq are part of the group.
Çavuşoğlu added that the PKK also posed a threat for Iran as Qandil is located near the country's border. He said Turkey has held talks with Iran and that a wall on the border with Iran has been built to prevent PKK infiltrations.
Manbij roadmap with the U.S.
Regarding the U.S.-Turkey deal on northwestern Syria's Manbij, Çavuşoğlu said that Ankara and Washington have been making necessary preparations. Starting in July the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) will withdraw from the region and return the U.S.-supplied weapons.
He said that after the YPG's withdraws from the region, people of Manbij will return home - the basis for that will be the original demography of the area before the civil war began. Çavuşoğlu said that the Manbij model will be later used for other regions as well.
Çavuşoğlu met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week and the two countries agreed on a road map for Manbij. Turkey has long demanded that the U.S. avoid cooperation with the YPG, putting a special emphasis on YPG presence west of the Euphrates River, including the predominantly Arab town of Manbij. The U.S. partnership with the YPG has soured the relations between the two NATO allies.
The foreign minister highlighted that the U.S., which provided military support for the terrorist group, will take the responsibility to retrieve these weapons. He said that the U.S. President Donald Trump promised President Erdoğan that the weapons will be collected.
He added that there are not any third parties involved in the Manbij deal stressing that "this is a deal between Turkey and the U.S."
The U.S. has militarily supported the YPG, which functions under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), under the pretext of fighting Daesh. The U.S. support of YPG has vexed Ankara as the group has organic links with the PKK, a group listed as terrorist by Turkey, the U.S., and the European Union.