Iraqi minister presses Kurdish Peshmerga to expel PKK
The Iraqi defence minister has urged Iraqi Kurdistan's Peshmerga security forces to expel Kurdish insurgents from northern Iraq, amid continued Turkish military operations targeting the separatist group.
Defence Minister Juma Inad said that Iraq's federal forces would assist their Kurdish counterparts in forcing out Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters, who maintain bases in the mountainous Turkey-Iraq border region, but that their support was limited.
"If we had enough strength, and didn't have [other] issues such as [remnants] of the Islamic State, we would have rooted out the PKK [alone]," Inad told a conference organised by the Al-Rafidain Centre for Dialogue (RCD) in Najaf.
His remarks at the RCD conference came a day after the secretary general of the Kurdish government's Peshmerga ministry addressed the same event, voicing concerns over the intensification of conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK on Iraqi soil.
The issue is a flashpoint of tensions between Ankara, Baghdad, and the Kurdish semi-autonomous government, with officials from each side urging the other to do more to combat the group, which Turkey regards as a terrorist organisation.
On Monday, a vehicle allegedly carrying PKK fighters was targeted by Turkish shelling near the city of Sulaymaniyah - the second such attack within a week.
Last week, Turkey's military said that warplanes struck 28 PKK targets in Iraqi territory, including bunkers and weapons caches.
Earlier in the week, Iraq's national security council decried incursions as "unilateral military actions" and rejected "the use of Iraqi land for settling scores".
The statement did not specifically mention Turkey, which launched its latest offensive against the PKK in April.
The PKK launched an insurgency against Ankara from Turkey’s Kurdish southeast in 1984 in a conflict that has claimed over 40,000 lives.