This file picture shows a view of the entrance to the Turkish Foreign Ministry building in the capital Ankara. (Photo by Anadolu news agency)
The Turkish government says it is ready to cooperate with the central Iraqi government against militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the country’s oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk
, amid reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is allowing PKK terrorists to penetrate the city.
“We once again emphasize the importance we attach to the protection of Iraq
’s political unity and territorial integrity. We also underline our readiness for any kind of cooperation with the Iraqi government on the termination of the PKK presence in Iraqi territories,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The statement also warned KRG not to add another calamitous mistake to the ones they have already made by allowing the PKK presence in the region, vowing that Kurdish authorities “will be held responsible if it lets the PKK find shelter.”
“We welcome the Iraqi government’s statement that no tolerance will be shown to PKK members in Kirkuk and that the mobilization of these groups will be considered an act of war,” it added.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry further underlined that it is closely monitoring the Iraqi government’s moves for the “establishment of constitutional order in Kirkuk.”
will stand with the Iraqi government in its steps that aim to establish lasting peace and stability in the country,” it pointed out.
Turkish cabinet agrees to close air space to Kurdistan
Meanwhile, Turkey’s cabinet has agreed to close its air space to Iraqi’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, and said work had started to hand over the main land border crossing into the Kurdish territory to Baghdad government.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (Photo by Reuters)
On Monday afternoon, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the hoisting of the Iraqi national flag in the country’s oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk as well as other areas under the control of KRG.
The development came shortly after a convoy of Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces took control of the governorate building in the central part of Kirkuk, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, facing no resistance from Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the city.
Additionally, a Kurdish official said at least 10 Kurdish fighters were killed and 27 wounded during fighting overnight with pro-government fighters from Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – better known by their Arabic name as Hashd al-Sha’abi – in Kirkuk province.
People gather on the road as they welcome Iraqi security forces, who continue to advance in military vehicles in Kirkuk, Iraq, on October 16, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Sherzad Hassan, deputy director of health in the Chamchamal region, said the toll covered only those shifted to hospitals.
Kurdish officials, requesting anonymity, said dozens more Peshmerga fighters are missing after Iraqi military forces launched operations against the Kurdish forces.
The referendum on secession of the Iraqi Kurdistan region was held on September 25 despite strong opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the international community, and Iraq’s neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.
Following the vote, Baghdad imposed a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.
On October 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start.
“The KRG must first commit to Iraq’s unity. The local authorities in the [Kurdistan] region … must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on … oil exports, [as well as] security and border protection, including land and air entry points,” the unnamed Iraqi official added.
The remarks came in response to an offer for dialogue made earlier by Kurdish authorities.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already demanded the annulment of the referendum results.