The presence of Kurdish rebels in the north is “unacceptable”, Iraq’s foreign minister said on Thursday, but he stopped short of offering a solution, as Turkey warned its patience had run out.
“The presence of PKK elements in mountainous areas is not legitimate under the Iraqi Constitution,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters in the Turkish capital Ankara during an official visit.
“This is unacceptable,” he added.
But the problem of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party could only be resolved through “good neighbourly relations” between Turkey and Iraq, he added.
A surge of attacks by Kurdish rebels also targeting civilians are piling pressure on Turkey, which has threatened to launch an incursion into northern Iraq to root out rebel bases.
Ankara has repeatedly urged the Iraqi government not to allow its territory to be used as a springboard by the PKK for attacks in Turkey.
“We no longer have any patience with terrorist activities emanating from the Iraqi territory and threatening Turkey,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
“We are determined to take the most effective measures,” he added, without elaborating.
Last week, Turkey’s parliament extended the government’s mandate to order military strikes against Kurdish rebels in Iraq.
But authorities in Baghdad as well the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq are urging Ankara not to intervene militarily and have pledged to take all necessary measures against PKK fighters.
Davutoglu said: “If Iraq is able to militarily control its own territory and prevent the terror threat targeting Turkey, then there will be no need for any cross-border operation.” Zebari said the problem could be resolved in a way that would not poison Turkish-Iraqi relations.
“There are serious initiatives to solve this problem. It will not last forever. We understand Turkey’s legitimate concerns,” said Zebari.
Turkish warplanes have bombed rebel bases in northern Iraq several times since August, killing between 145 and 160 rebels, according to the general staff.
The air strikes have strained relations with neighbouring Iraq, which summoned Turkey’s ambassador in August to demand an immediate end to the attacks after it was alleged that Turkish bombings had killed civillians.
Turkey rejected the claims.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.