Turkey says it is planning to carry out a joint attack with Iran against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has waged a three-and-a-half decade armed campaign against Ankara for independence.
“God willing, we will carry out a joint operation against the PKK together with Iran,” Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told Anadolu news agency Wednesday.
He did not specify which PKK positions were going to be targeted in the planned operation or when the attack would take place. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has in the past indicated that he would order the military to attack militant hideouts in Iraq.
Soylu (pictured below) said the operation was part of Turkey’s efforts to eradicate the group after successfully blocking most of its inroads at the border and basically trapping the few hundred PKK militants left in the country.
“There are less than 700 terrorists in Turkey,” he said. “The terrorist entry into the country is so little, as well. 12 people entered Turkey since January. We are taking serious measures at our borders.”
He also accused the group of recruiting teenagers to fight the Turkish government forces.
Besides Turkey, the European Union and the US have also declared the PKK a terrorist organization. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.
Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.
In January 2018, Ankara launched a cross-border military operation inside Syria, code-named Operation Olive Branch, with the declared aim of eliminating the Syrian Kurdish militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The YPG forms the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants supported by the United States.
Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed PKK.
More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the authority
Iran has had its own struggle with the PKK’s Iranian offshoot, the so-called Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), which has waged several terrorist attacks in western Iran over the past years.
The terror group carries out attacks in parts of Iran’s West Azerbaijan province which borders Iraq, Turkey, and Armenia.
In September last year, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRCG) fired as many as seven missiles at a gathering of terrorist commanders in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan
Back then, the IRGC said in a statement the missile attack was carried out after terrorist groups affiliated with the global arrogance from the Kurdistan region ignored serious warnings about Iran’s determination to dismantle their bases and the necessity to end their aggressive and terrorist acts against the Islamic Republic.
Iran has in the past welcomed Turkey’s announced plans to build a 144-kilometer stretch of wall along the border between the two neighbors. Ankara has described the wall as an effective barrier that could halt movement of PKK militants based in Iraq’s Qandil mountains, bordering Iran and Turkey.