Amid tensions with Turkey, Iraqi PM orders forces to border
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister said on Tuesday that he has ordered the military to take full control of the country’s borders amid escalating tensions and Turkish threats of an incursion into Iraq to chase Kurdish rebels.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend announced “operations” in Sinjar in northern Iraq to clear the mountainous area of Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, fighters. Erdogan later said that if the PKK fighters do not vacate Iraqi regions of Sinjar and Qandil, it would be “inevitable” for Ankara to remove them.
During a phone call with his Turkish counterpart on Tuesday, al-Abadi said his troops will prevent “foreign fighters” from using Iraq for cross-border attacks against Turkey. Al-Abadi’s statement says he reassured Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that he rejects any “violation” against Turkey through Iraqi territory.
The statement also says Yildrim assured al-Abadi that Turkey won’t “launch operations without Iraqi government consent.”
PKK, which has been fighting Ankara since 1984 in the southeast region of Turkey along the border with Iraq, maintains bases in northern Iraq for cross-border raids. Turkey has in the past launched airstrikes and ground operations inside Iraq to rout the rebels. It is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and United States.
In 2015, PKK said it sent fighters into Sinjar — about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of the Iraqi city of Mosul — to help protect Iraq’s minority Yazidi people “from genocide” at the hands of the Islamic State group, which at the time had overrun large swaths of northern Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdish fighters, known as the peshmerga and backed by the U.S.-led coalition, led the offensive against the IS in that part of Iraq.