Turkey’s Erdogan says Iraq sees need to eliminate Kurdish PKK militia

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in remarks published on Tuesday he believed Iraq saw the need to eliminate the Kurdish PKK militia and had the will to do so, adding Ankara wanted Baghdad’s support in that battle.

Erdogan was speaking after talks in Baghdad and Erbil on Monday, the first visit by a Turkish leader to Iraq since 2011, following years of tensions as Ankara carried out cross-border attacks on PKK militants based in northern Iraq.

Ties between the neighbors were entering a new phase, Erdogan said, after they agreed to cooperate against militants, boost economic ties via a new corridor and consider Iraq’s needs for access to scarce water.

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Speaking to reporters on his flight back from Iraq, Erdogan said Turkey’s battle with terrorism would continue in line with international law, and added he hoped to see concrete results of Baghdad labeling the PKK a “banned organization” last month.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the US 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 Turkey but is now more focused on the mountains of northern Iraq’s mountainous, semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

“One would hope that our neighbors put the necessary stance forward against the threats directed at us from their lands, and we continue this battle jointly,” Erdogan said, according to a text of the in-flight comments published by his office.

“Eliminating this threat is also to the benefit of Iraq. I believe they see this reality and they will now put forth a will for this issue to be removed,” he said, adding he also discussed steps against the PKK during talks in Erbil.

Asked about Iraq’s needs for access to water, Erdogan said Turkey was not a country with abundant water resources and also had to manage its own needs. He added plans taking into account “changing climate conditions” were needed for the sustainable use of water.

“Therefore, we need to take cautious steps. With evaluations to be held in that direction, it may be possible to find common ground,” he said.

On Monday, the two countries agreed to a strategic framework agreement overseeing security, trade and energy as well as a 10-year deal on the management of water resources that would take Iraq’s needs into account.

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