Turkiye may conduct new operations in Iraq, Syria if needed, official says

Turkiye may conduct new operations in Iraq, Syria if needed, official says

ANKARA (Reuters): Turkiye might conduct more cross-border operations into Iraq and Syria if needed following the deaths of nine Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq last week, a Turkish defense ministry official said on Thursday.

The nine were killed in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, prompting Ankara to conduct air strikes and other operations in northern Iraq and northern Syria.

“Under international law and self-defense, Turkiye has every right to conduct operations for its border security. Turkish Armed Forces has done and will do whatever needed where and when necessary,” the defense ministry official told reporters.

The clashes were in the Zap region of northern Iraq, when PKK militants attacked a security point set up by Turkish Armed Forces at an altitude of 1,740 meters, a Turkish defense ministry official said.

Turkiye has since 2019 conducted a series of cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK dubbed “Claw.” The official said Zap was where the operation “Claw-Lock” is taking place, aimed at making the Turkish-Iraqi border completely safe.

On Jan. 12, PKK members conducted simultaneous attacks on several Turkish bases in northern Iraq in bad weather and poor visibility, and all but one of the attacks were prevented by Turkish soldiers, the official said.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the insurgency.

The conflict was long fought mainly in rural areas of southeastern Turkiye but is now more focused on the mountains of northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, where PKK militants are based.

“In our fight with terrorism, Syria and Iraq are inseparable. Syria is the main human resource of the terror organization, there’s a frequent transition between Syria and Iraq,” the official said.

Turkiye has also staged military incursions in Syria’s north against the YPG militia, which it regards as a wing of the PKK.

Turkiye could conduct new cross-border operations into Iraq and Syria, and it could also expand its operation zones, if it needs to, the official added.