Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country is ready to attack northern Iraq if the Iraqi central government does not take action against Kurdish militant groups there.
In an interview with CNN Turk on Thursday, Erdogan said Turkey may strike the Iraqi city of Qandil, “at any moment one evening.”
A military action would go on to include Sinjar and Makhmur as well, he added.
Turkish military forces have regularly crossed the border with Iraq to carry out operations against positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the mountainous Qandil region, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq’s Erbil province.
Turkish pro-government daily Daily Sabah reported late Thursday that the Turkish army had cleared a 400-square-kilometer area from PKK militants in northern Iraq.
Ankara, along with the European Union and the United States, have declared the PKK a terrorist group. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.
A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said earlier in the week that Turkey had established 11 regional bases in northern Iraq and doubled its troops across the region.
Turkey says a military operation against PKK militants in Iraq’s Qandil region is only matter of time.
In late 2015, tensions flared up between Baghdad and Ankara after Turkey deployed 150 heavily armed soldiers backed by 20 to 25 tanks to the Bashiqa military base in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, where it claimed it was training Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters battling the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
The Turkish government has been opening military fronts against Kurdish groups in Syria as well. Earlier this year, it launched the ongoing Olive Branch offensive against the purported positions of the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia in Syria’s western enclave of Afrin.