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    Turkey keen to attack Kurds in Iraq as Kurdish militant kills 8

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    Turkish foreign minister Monday defended his country's right to move into neighboring Iraq to destroy separatist bases there as eight soldiers died in the latest suicide bombing involving ethnic Kurds.

    ANKARA, June 4 (RIA Novosti) - Turkish foreign minister Monday defended his country's right to move into neighboring Iraq to destroy separatist bases there as eight soldiers died in the latest suicide bombing involving ethnic Kurds.

    The suicide attack, which occurred at a Turkish checkpoint, killing at least eight soldiers and leaving six wounded, is the latest in a series of terrorist attacks allegedly carried out by Kurdish militants.

    "We respect Iraq's territorial integrity but we cannot tolerate terrorist activities near our borders and on our territory," Abdullah Gul told an Ankara news conference after a meeting with EU officials.

    The EU apparently has given tacit support for Turkey's plans for a large military operation in the Kurdish-populated northern part of Iraq against armed members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

    Speaking after their meeting with Gul, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, and Olli Rehn, the EU enlargement commissioner, neither condemned nor openly supported the plan. Renh said, however, that the EU was definitely on Turkey's side where counterterrorism was concerned.

    The Turkish military have said up to 3,500 PKK gunmen based in Iraq were poised to commit terrorist attacks in Turkey, which encouraged the government to draft a petition to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, asking him to exert pressure on Baghdad over the PKK's presence in Iraqi Kurdistan.

    The Turkish TV network NTV said the petition to be sent Monday would substantiate Ankara's claim that a military operation would be legal, citing Article 51 of the UN Charter on the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense by members.

    Last week Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to decide whether an operation would take place as soon as the military provided sufficient intelligence.

    "The ultimate decision on an operation is political. We will give consideration to whatever the military ask us to," he told Turkish media.

    Amid the Turkish military buildup near the Iraqi border in past weeks, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq, said Sunday the Turks had bombed Iraqi territory in one of several pinpoint raids against PKK gunmen, a claim neither confirmed nor rejected by the Turkish General Staff.

    Over 40,000 people have been killed in Turkey since 1984 when PKK started its fight for an ethnic Kurdish state in the southeast of the country. Its charismatic leader Abdullah Ocalan has been imprisoned since 1999 on charges of terrorism narrowly escaping the death penalty because the EU, whose membership Turkey is seeking, has long lobbied against capital punishment.

    Since the 2003 U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Turkish separatist Kurds have received increasing, if unacknowledged, support from those living in the three neighboring provinces of oil-rich northern Iraq, whose population has sought autonomy from Baghdad and where local Peshmerga militia formally took over security functions from U.S. forces earlier this month.

    Ethnic Kurds have also been actively driving for autonomy in eastern parts of Syria. The borders between the three countries are still unsecured.

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