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Iraq's Kurds Condemn Turkish Shelling

Turkey has stepped up military operations this year against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region. These operations include frequent cross-border shelling campaigns. VOA's Suzanne Presto in Irbil reports that the Kurdistan government is again condemning Turkish military action in Iraq.

Kurdistan officials say Turkey's military frequently shells unpopulated mountain areas not far from the Turkish border. Turkey says it is targeting rebels of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, the PKK, which has been fighting for independence in southeastern Turkey for nearly 25 years.

Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani's chief of staff, Fouad Hussein, says the government condemns Turkish military action in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region.

"We are condemning any shelling of the Kurdistan territory, and that is part of Iraqi territory," he said. "And that is not acceptable. That is not acceptable, and we hope they will stop. This will not help the interests of neither Turkey nor Iraqi Kurdistan."

Iraqi and Kurdistan officials said Turkey shelled an unpopulated area in the northern province of Dohuk as recently as Monday.

Last week, the deputy head of Turkey's armed forces, General Ilker Basbug, said Turkey has shared military intelligence with Iran, and that the two nations have carried out coordinated attacks against Kurdish rebels.

Iran is battling Kurdish rebels belonging to the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, which are based along the Iranian border with Kurdistan.

Hussein says Kurdistan's neighbors, Turkey and Iran, are sovereign nations with a right to collaborate. But he says this fact does not give them license to discuss strategies that target Kurdish people living inside Iraqi borders.

"They are two independent countries," said Hussein. "It is their business, but if it is about Kurds in Iraq and about Kurdish people in Iraq then it is not acceptable. But if they are sharing information with each other about other issues, then that is different."

Hussein says Kurdistan has been in contact with the Turkish government about the rebel conflict and Turkey's military campaign. Last month, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with a Turkish delegation in Baghdad to discuss political and security issues.

A Kurdish government statement issued after the talks said the prime minister recognized Turkey's legitimate concerns, and he stressed the importance of solving common problems through negotiation and dialogue.

Hussein also emphasizes that Kurdistan and Turkey should engage in further diplomatic measures.

"There is an open door between both sides, and we hope that during the future sitting and discussion and negotiation that we will solve this problem, because this cannot continue all the time," he said.

He stresses that the Kurdish regional government has no control over the PKK rebels.

"We are not responsible for the PKK actions," Hussein said. "PKK does not listen to us, does not get orders from us. PKK is an organization which belongs to the Kurds of Turkey and we are not responsible for any actions that PKK takes."

Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK began battling for autonomy in 1984. The United States, Turkey and other countries classify the PKK as a terrorist group.