Turkey calls in Iraq envoy to defend new offensive

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Turkey on Thursday summoned Baghdad’s top envoy to defend its decision to launch a military campaign against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Iraq’s charge d’affaires was called in a day after officials in Baghdad denied Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim that they backed the offensive.

Turkey launched its third campaign in northern Iraq since 2020 on Sunday, using special forces and combat drones to attack fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been proscribed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies.

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Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey’s push into the mountains of northern Iraq was being conducted in “close cooperation with the central Iraqi government and the regional administration in northern Iraq.”

The Iraqi foreign ministry said Erdogan’s claim was “not true.”

The ministry for Iraqi peshmerga fighters in the country’s autonomous Kurdish region also denied any cooperation or participation in the Turkish offensive.

Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a softly-worded statement saying it called in Baghdad’s envoy to convey its displeasure with the “unfounded allegations” made in the wake of Erdogan’s statement in Iraq.

“As long as the Iraqi authorities do not take concrete and effective steps [against the rebels] and the threat posed by them from Iraq continues, our country will take the necessary measures on the basis of its right of self-defense,” Turkish ministry said.

Some analysts believe that Iraqi leaders - while lodging formal protests - are privately happy that Turkey is trying to punish PKK, whose decades-long insurgency has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Turkey’s offensive was launched two days after a rare visit by the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, Masrour Barzani, suggesting that he had been briefed on Ankara’s plans.

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