Barzani condemns PKK for ‘inviting’ Turkey’s operations into İraq

The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masrour Barzani condemned on Saturday the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) over what he called creating justifications for Turkish attacks inside Iraq. 

“This is not our problem. This is a problem inside Turkey that has been exported to our region,” Barzani told France 24, accusing the PKK of “taking advantage of the goodwill of the KRG authorities.”

The KRG leader went into detail of how the PKK has created problems for his region through its presence. Beyond giving impetus to Turkish airstrikes, Barzani says that the group has harassed Iraqi Kurdish locals in villages inside the KRG.  

Asked for his feelings on a possible intervention by Turkey akin to its operations in neighbouring Syria against a PKK-affiliate there, Barzani replied he hoped for a peaceful solution but believes the PKK is in essence inviting a Turkish military operation into Iraq. 

“Of course we support the sovereignty of our country and nobody wants to have the presence of any militaries, but there has to bee no justification whatsoever for Turkish forces which at this time the PKK is giving them,” said Barzani. 

While tensions between the PKK and the KRG are nothing new, they have heightened in recent months. PKK militants have conducted attacks on KRG Peshmerga forces inside their territory and have targeted important infrastructure in the past like pipelines carrying KRG gas to Turkey for export to Europe. 

Barzani, a member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has consistently lambasted the PKK for encouraging Turkish attacks and for harassing locals. To combat them, Erbil signed a deal with Iraq’s federal government in October 2020 to place responsibility in Baghdad’s hands for the Sinjar region of northern Iraq where PKK and PKK-affiliated militias operate. This deal was supported by the United States, Turkey and the United Nations. 

However, PKK groups have since edged closer in their cooperation with Iran-backed militias of the Hashd al Shaabi. Some of these groups have forcefully opposed any operation by Turkey into Sinjar and thousands of militia have poured into the province recently, undermining the Erbil-Baghdad deal. 

Iran’s diplomats have rejected Turkey’s policies inside Iraq as well. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said as much last week and Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad won Turkish umbrage for calling on Ankara to leave Iraq. 

“Ambassador of Iran would be the last person to lecture Turkey about respecting borders of Iraq,” Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yıldız said on Twitter. 

The PKK is an outlawed terrorist group and is recognised as such by Turkey, the United States and European Union. It has waged an armed insurgency inside Turkey for Kurdish autonomy since 1984.