Iraq warm to Turkey’s proposed anti-PKK joint ops centre, says Turkish official

By Thomson Reuters Mar 21, 2024 | 4:06 AM

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey proposed to set up a “joint operation centre” with Iraq in order to fight the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and Baghdad responded “positively” in a meeting last week, a Turkish defence ministry official said on Thursday.

Senior Turkish and Iraqi officials, including defence ministers, held talks in Baghdad last week to discuss security issues including potential measures against the PKK, after Turkey warned of new military operations in the region.

“Iraq also views (the PKK) as a threat to itself. They approached positively our offer to set up a joint operation centre and to cooperate in the fight against terrorism,” the official told reporters.

During last week’s meeting, the two sides also discussed preparations for a planned visit by President Tayyip Erdogan to Baghdad, which is expected to take place after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in April.

The official said Ankara wants the joint operation centre to be included in a broader strategic document that Erdogan intends to sign during the visit.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the insurgency.

The conflict was long fought mainly in rural areas of southeastern Turkey but is now more focused on the mountains of northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Turkey has conducted years of cross-border military operations against militants that have left roughly half the Syrian territory bordering Turkey and all of Iraqi territory bordering Turkey controlled or overseen by Turkey’s military.

(Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)