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Turkey must stop occupation of Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region, senior lawmaker says

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)
In this file picture, Turkish military forces patrol with a drone at Avashin-Basyan area in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on May 21, 2018. (Photo by Anadolu Agency)

A senior Iraqi MP has denounced Turkey's deployment of troops to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region where they are pressing ahead with a military campaign against PKK militants, saying Ankara must end its occupation of the Iraqi territories. 

“What is happening within the borders of the Kurdistan region represents a dangerous escalation by the Turkish army and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK),” the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA) quoted Chairman of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi Parliament Mohammed Rida Al Haidar as saying.

“The Constitution does not allow the presence of refugees with affiliation to militant groups on the Iraqi soil,” he said in a televised statement. 

Al Haidar also categorically denied the existence of any agreement between Baghdad and Ankara regarding the ongoing military offensive in the Kurdistan region.

“There are only temporary and conditional understandings with Turkey,” he said, stressing that “Turkey should not exploit the current situation in Iraq.”

He said, “The central government [in Baghdad] and the command center of [Kurdish] Peshmerga military forces must coordinate in the wake of the Turkish occupation.”

Al-Haidar also emphasized that there is no intelligence cooperation between Iraq and Turkey regarding the pursuit of PKK militants.

“The Turkish government must stop fighting, and instead support the Iraqi government's efforts to arrive at solutions,” the top Iraqi lawmaker pointed out.

Back on May 3, Iraqi Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish chargé d'affairs in Baghdad to submit a letter of protest over Ankara’s violations in the Kurdistan region, including the presence of the Turkish defense minister in the area without prior coordination.

“The Iraqi government expresses its strong dissatisfaction and condemnation regarding the presence of Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in Iraqi territories without coordination or prior approval by competent authorities, and his meeting with Turkish forces who are illegally present in the region,” Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Nizar al-Khairallah said in a statement at the time.

The ministry also denounced Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu’s statements about establishing a permanent Turkish military base in northern Iraq.

Turkish military forces launched operations Pence-Simsek and Pence-Yildirim on April 23 in northern Iraq’s Metina and Avasin-Basyan regions in pursuit of PKK militants.

PKK Militants — designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union — regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the militant group.

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