The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated on Monday that Turkey is ready to cooperate with the central Iraqi government to end the presence in Kirkuk of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed militant organization based in Iraq and carrying out an insurgency since 1984 mainly in predominantly Kurdish eastern Turkey, according to a Monday report by Reuters.
The ministry also reportedly said Ankara would stand by Baghdad to provide peace and stability in the country as Iraqi forces captured several positions near Kirkuk from Kurdish fighters, following an independence referendum held in Kurdish northern Iraq last month.
The official statement added that “we welcome the Iraqi Government’s statement that the presence of the members of the PKK terrorist organization will not be tolerated within the city of Kirkuk and that the mobilization of such units would be considered as a declaration of war.”
Underlining their displeasure at the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) referendum, the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated:
“We are closely following the steps by the Iraqi Government to reinstitute its constitutional sovereignty over the city of Kirkuk, which is a model of the country’s social mosaic, and home to our Turcoman Kinsmen throughout history, following the KRG’s illegitimate referendum that was held in violation of the Iraqi Constitution.”
“We warn the KRG not to add a new one to the grave mistakes it has recently committed. Those who were instrumental in helping the PKK, which may attempt to disrupt peace and harmony in Kirkuk, find a refuge in this region will also be held accountable by us.
“Taking this opportunity, we emphasize once more the importance we attach to the preservation of Iraq’s political unity and territorial integrity. We underscore that we are ready to any form of cooperation with the Iraqi Government to annihilate PKK’s presence on Iraqi soil.”
Despite warnings from the Baghdad administration and abroad, including from Ankara and Washington, the KRG held a referendum on Sept. 25 for a separate Kurdistan state in northern Iraq.
The results show that over 92 percent of more than 3 million people voted in favor of separation from Baghdad and the formation of an independent Kurdistan state.
“Our only expectation was for them [KRG] to respect our sensitivities and not take a step despite us. They took this step anyway, and they will pay a price,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said.
He went on to say that the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk is a controversial area, claiming that Kurds have no place in the history of Kirkuk. Erdoğan threatened the KRG in a speech in the eastern province of Erzurum.
Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with jailed PKK chief Abdullah Öcalan for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015.
Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces. More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.