Iraqi armed forces will prevent Kurdish fighters based in northern Iraq from staging cross-border attacks against Turkey, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.
Abadi’s office said the prime minister relayed this message to his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim in a phone call on Tuesday.
Ankara had threatened on Sunday to intervene directly if the Iraqi operation against the fighters based in the border region of Sinjar failed.
Turkey has long complained that fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are being given free rein to operate out of Sinjar and other border areas in Iraq against Turkish targets. The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
“Iraqi security forces have been instructed not to allow the presence of foreign fighters in the border region,” Abadi’s office quoted him as telling Yildirim in their conversation.
The chief of Iraq’s military General Staff, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi, echoed that message during an inspection tour on Tuesday of troops deployed in Sinjar, the state-run news website Iraqi Media Network reported.
“The Iraqi army is in full control of Sinjar and the border strip with Turkey,” it quoted him as saying.
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s intelligence chief would meet an Iraqi official to discuss the Iraqi military operation in Sinjar.
“We hope that the Iraqi central government will carry out this operation in Sinjar properly,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey would do “what is necessary” if the Iraqi government’s operation failed.
He said that Ankara was following developments regarding the operation in question, hinting that a cross-border operation is on the table.
PKK announces withdrawal
Turkish forces are currently waging a full-scale military operation in the Afrin region of northern Syria against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that Ankara says has close ties to the PKK.
The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) – an organisation seen as the PKK’s umbrella group – quoted by Iraqi Kurdish media last week, announced the withdrawal of the PKK fighters from Sinjar, saying that the Yazidi minority there did not face a security threat any more. The announcement followed Turkey’s ultimatum over intervening in Sinjar.