Turkey has made its position clear on eliminating the PKK terrorist threats south of its borders with previous cross border operations into Syria and northern Iraq.
The country now says it will root out the PKK's headquarters on the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq in the recently launched operation to ensure its national security.
In Turkey's western province of İzmir yesterday, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that they would not be successful in the fight against terror if northern Iraq is not secured.
He said security forces have already crossed 30-kilometers into northern Iraq in a 300-kilometer area as part of the operation on Qandil.
"Security forces will stop attacks coming from Qandil, Sinjar [in northwestern Iraq], and Syria at their roots," he added.
Recently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the launch of anti-terror operations in the Qandil and Sinjar regions.
The Qandil mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq's Irbil province, are being used as the headquarters of PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), although the area is under de jure control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The area has frequently been hit by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the last decade.
However, airstrikes on PKK targets in the region have been carried out regularly since July 2015, when the PKK resumed its decades-long armed campaign. Since last March, the number of operations in the region has escalated.
While Qandil has been known as the PKK's headquarters, since 2016, news reports have also said that the PKK has been also establishing a command-and-control base in northwestern town of Sinjar, Iraq.
Prime Minister Yıldırım said Turkey's cross-border steps against the terrorists are only to protect its national security, and that Turkey has no interests in their territories. "We take these measures to protect our countries, this is our most legitimate right," he said.
Turkey has previously carried out several cross-border operations in Iraq against PKK threats. While most of them were short-lived, the first extensive operation was carried out in May 1983, when 5,000 Turkish soldiers crossed the Iraqi border and advanced five kilometers. After a land operation in the Qandil mountains, they retreated. Qandil became the PKK's main headquarters in the 1990s after it used the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon as training grounds for many years. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the U.S. and the EU. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday in Antalya that the elimination of the PKK from the Qandil mountains will not only contribute to security of Turkey, but will also contribute to Iraq's territorial integrity and security.
Çavuşoğlu added Baghdad's support to Turkey is crucial in fight against PKK terrorism. He also said that the group poses the biggest threat to Irbil and that eliminating the PKK is important for the future of Iraq's and the Kurds in northern Iraq. "Iraqi forces should re-take control [in the area] and not let terrorists come back," he said.
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