ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a “tragic” legacy from Iraqi former dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s foreign ministry spokesperson told Rudaw late Friday, adding that the Kurdish group is an “imported” issue from Turkey.
On Wednesday, a shelling in Zakho, Duhok province killed nine Arab tourists and injured 22 others from Iraq’s central and southern provinces. Baghdad and Erbil have blamed the Turkish army for the deadly attack while Ankara denied its involvement. The incident took place in Parakh village which has seen years of conflict between Turkey and the PKK. The deadly attack has created a diplomatic spat between both neighbouring countries.
Turkey claims that the PKK is a terrorist organization and poses a threat to its national security from inside Iraq. Iraqi foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed al-Sahaf told Rudaw’s Nwenar Fatih late Friday that the Kurdish group has become a headache for Iraqi governments since the collapse of the Baath regime in 2003.
“The PKK is one of the heavy and tragic legacies left by the toppled Baath regime, and there are historical problems that have accumulated on the democratic system after 2003,” said Sahaf, adding that the PKK is an imported issue from Turkey.
The PKK was founded in 1978 with the stated goal of struggling for the increased rights of Kurds in Turkey. In the early eighties, the party made an agreement with the Iraq-based Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to move some of its troops to what is now the Kurdistan Region. However, the KDP, which still rules the Region, now has thorny relations with the PKK and strong ties with Ankara. Both Kurdish parties fought for years in the nineties over land control in the Region.
Turkey has carried out dozens of anti-PKK military operations inside the Kurdistan Region since the nineties. There have been reported agreements between Ankara and Baghdad which allowed the Turkish army to carry out military campaigns inside Iraq.
The Iraqi spokesperson told Rudaw that there has never been any agreement between both countries over the PKK.
“There was never an agreement, but the minutes of a bilateral meeting, in which it was decided that if Turkey wanted to take any military action, it had to ask the Iraqi government every time, Sahaf said, adding that Ankara has never abided by this.
He also clarified that none of the Iraqi governments, which were formed after 2003, have recognized such a decision by Hussein’s regime and Turkish government, “because it violates Iraq’s sovereignty and harms its security and stability.”
The PKK-affiliated forces, which have controlled parts of the Yazidi heartland of Shingal for years following the Islamic State (ISIS) attacks in 2014, have enjoyed good relations with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi) but clashed with the Iraqi army several times over land control.
Baghdad and Erbil have an agreement in 2020 to expel the PKK-affiliated forces in Shingal and normalize the situation there but these forces have refused to leave the town.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) too has blamed the PKK for creating issues for the Region such killing members of Peshmerga forces and giving Turkey an excuse to attack the bordering areas. Over a hundred civilians have been killed in recent years due to Turkish bombardments in these areas.