Jun 04 2018

Turkey could attack PKK in Qandil “at any time” – Tr govt spokesman

The Turkish Armed Forces could enter the Qandil mountains, a region in northern Iraq renowned as a stronghold for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), "at any time," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ has said.

Turkish military operations have ramped up in areas near Qandil in recent months, including setting up outposts and fixed positions in the region and clashing with fighters from the PKK, a group which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule since the 1980s, and is classified as a terrorist organisation by Turkey.

“Turkey may enter Qandil; anything could happen at any time,” Turkish secular news site quoted Bozdağ as saying during a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Bozdağ’s statement came as reports of a Turkish advance in the Iraqi Kurdish districts of Duhok and Erbil hit Arab press, sparking speculation that Ankara was preparing to pull the trigger on such an operation.

An attack on Qandil would be the Turkish military’s second operation targeting Kurdish fighters this year, after Turkish forces successfully captured the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian-Kurdish group linked to the PKK.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to extend that operation to Manbij, an area of northern Syria close to Afrin where the YPG and its affiliates are positioned alongside forces from the United States, which considers the Syrian-Kurdish groups important allies in containing extremist jihadist groups and Iranian-linked forces in Syria.

With Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his counterpart Mike Pompeo together in Washington, where they discussed and endorsed a roadmap on Manbij, an attack on Qandil may be a more palatable option for Turkey.

Bozdag also talked about Manbij in his presser and apparent reference to Syrian Kurdish YPG forces' withdrawal from the city, said "all of these will be applied according to a timetable. All of these are tied to a timetable. We hope that our ally, the U.S., would do what is necessary to put them in practice according to our pre-agreement." 

Writing for Ahval in May, columnist Zulfikar Doğan suggested the ruling Justice and Development Party may trigger a military operation as a means of fostering support ahead of the upcoming Jun. 24 presidential and parliamentary elections.