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Official: Turkey has ‘no agreement, legal basis' for launching operations in northern Iraq

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 soldiers take part in an operation against Kurdish PKK militants in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. (Photo via Twitter)

A high-ranking Iraqi official says Turkey's ongoing operation against members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region is not being carried out under any agreement with the Baghdad government.

The spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Ahmed al-Sahaf, told the Iraqi News Agency on Sunday that there was a pre-2003 agreement between Ankara and Baghdad that temporarily permitted Turkish military forces, under certain circumstances, to cross five kilometers over the border in pursuit of PKK militants for a limited number of days in coordination with the Iraqi government.

However, in 2009, the Iraqi parliament “canceled” all agreements permitting Turkish troop to enter the country, Sahaf noted. 

“The Turkish side is carrying out repeated violations [against Iraq] that have no legal basis or agreement,” the Iraqi diplomat said.

Sahaf highlighted that even the United Nations' Article 51, which Ankara invariably cites to justify its cross-border operations, must be implemented with “official approval” from Baghdad. 

Last week, Turkey announced its latest cross-border incursion into Iraq, codenamed Operation Claw-Lock. The air-and-ground military attacks target suspected PKK positions in the Zab, Basiyan, Avasheen, and Korajiwar districts in the Kurdistan Region. 

The Iraqi government summoned the Turkish ambassador, Ali Riza Guney, and handed him a "strongly worded" protest note over the offensive, and called the operation a blatant violation of its sovereignty. 

On the other hand, Ankara summoned the Iraqi charge d'affaires and informed him those military operations will continue if Baghdad doesn't take action against PKK members. 

Hassan al-Adari, the head of the Sadrist bloc, which has the largest number of seats in the Iraqi parliament, has said that Iraq must take the matter of Turkey's repeated attacks to the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League to establish a “unified stance” on the matter.

Earlier this year, the Iraqi anti-terror Kata'ib Hezbollah group, which is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi, denounced the Turkish military strikes on Kurdistan region, calling on the Ankara government to withdraw its forces from the Arab country before it gets "too late."

Kata'ib Hezbollah, in a statement released on February 5, demanded that Turkish authorities stop repeated violations of Iraq’s sovereignty and deadly raids on ordinary people and fully withdraw Turkish forces from Iraqi soil.

“Our patience has reached its limit. Disregard for the loss of our compatriots’ lives and violations of the state sovereignty were the last straw,” the statement read.

“The Iraqi nation, which dispelled the myth about US forces as the world’s most powerful military and subjected them to humiliation, can demean you as well. Therefore, you are recommended to pull out your troops before it is too late,” Kata'ib Hezbollah warned Ankara.

Militants of the PKK — 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 autonomy-seeking militant group.


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