Turkey reportedly plans to build a new military base in Iraq’s northern border areas, where the Turkish military has been engaged in an operation against Kurdish militants, despite harsh criticism from the Baghdad government.
At a closed-door meeting of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Friday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Ankara would press ahead with its military operations near its border in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Turkish media reported.
The minister emphasized the strategic significance of the Metina region of Duhok Province in Iraqi Kurdistan and said, “Just like we did in Syria, we will establish bases and control the area.”
“This region is a route to Qandil and we will control this line,” said Soylu, referring to the mountainous area in northern Iraq where militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are based.
The PKK has, for decades, fought the Turkish state for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq. Ankara views the armed group as a “terrorist” organization and a national security threat.
The Turkish military frequently dispatches warplanes, drones, and ground forces across the Iraqi border to carry out attacks against PKK positions at its doorstep.
Those operations, which are not coordinated with the central Iraqi government, has been condemned by Baghdad as a violation of the Arab country’s sovereignty.
Iraq has repeatedly urged Turkey to end its military activities on Iraqi soil. It has also summoned Ankara’s envoy over the raids several times. Turkey, however, accuses its neighbor of tolerating the PKK presence on its soil, refusing to end its cross-border attacks.
In recent days, there has been a sharp rise in Turkish air raids and ground operations against PKK militants in northern Iraq.
Reports coming out of Iraq’s Kurdistan region said earlier this week that the Turks had even seized a village overlooking Mount Kista in Dohuk Province during their operations.
In Syria, Turkey — backed by allied militants — have, since 2016, conducted three military operations against Kurdish militants that it says are linked to the PKK. It currently controls a stretch of Syrian territory along the Turkish border.
Like the Iraqi government, Syria has also slammed Turkey’s military presence on its soil as a violation of its sovereignty and wants Ankara to end its occupation of the Arab country.