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Turkey, Iraq to carry out joint military ops against PKK in N Iraq: Turkish FM

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a joint news conference with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl (not pictured) in Vienna, Austria, on March 8, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Ankara and Baghdad will carry out a joint military operation against members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group in the northern parts of the Arab country.

The top Turkish diplomat announced the news at a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl in Vienna on Thursday, less than two months after Ankara launched a full-scale cross-border military operation in Syria’s northern region of Afrin with the declared aim of eliminating the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The Turkish government regards the YPG as a Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Cavusoglu did not give further details about the joint operation, but said “both Syria and Iraq need to be cleared off from all terrorist groups. Otherwise the political steps that will be taken regarding a political solution would fail.”

The senior Turkish diplomat also stressed that mutual steps would be taken against “terrorists” after Iraq’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for May, as both sides had agreed on the issue in previous high-level meetings.

The PKK, viewed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, reportedly has camps in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, from which it purportedly carries out attacks into Turkey.

Cavusoglu praised Iraq for its landmark victory against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group inside the country, but he said that “during this period the PKK infiltrated into cities from Qandil and other mountains.”

The Iraqi army, backed by popular volunteer forces, managed last December to rid the country of Daesh, which had captured large swathes of land in Iraq’s north and west at the onset of its campaign of terror in 2014.

Since July 2015, the Turkish air force has been carrying out operations against the PKK positions in the country’s troubled southeastern border region as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

In early December 2015, Turkey deployed a contingent of its troops to the Bashiqa military camp north of Mosul, claiming that the move had been earlier coordinated with Iraqi officials.

Baghdad swiftly denied the claim and called on Ankara to immediately withdraw its forces from the camp.

Turkey, however, has so far refused to pull out its forces from the Iraqi soil, triggering a diplomatic crisis with Baghdad, which brought them to the brink of a war at one point.

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