Iraq

Iraq threatens to sever trade ties with Turkey over cross-border operation

Iraq has threatened to cut off its trade ties with Turkey in protest at Ankara’s ongoing cross-border operation in the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region against hideouts of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

“Turkey has interests in Iraq as the annual trade balance between Baghdad and Ankara stands at more than 16 billion dollars annually. There are also hundreds of Turkish commercial insinuates operating inside Iraq. The Iraqi government will take actions against all these interests if urgent need arises,” spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed al-Sahaf, said in an exclusive interview with local Kurdish-language Rudaw television news network on Thursday night.

Sahaf further noted that the Iraqi government has a wide array of options to stop the Turkish offensive and demand compensation for the loss of civilian lives.

“We enumerated such options when Turkish Ambassador Fatih Yildiz was summoned to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry [on June 18]. We have mentioned the possibility of resorting to the United Nations Security Council and calling for an emergency special session. We would also approach Arab foreign ministers and ask them to hold an emergency Arab League meeting… Other options, especially with regard to economic relationship and trade exchange, are also on the table. All these options are being weighed, and the decision not to implement them depends on a sovereign and diplomatic action expected from Turkey. We have so far been coordinating to produce a political solution and adhering to the principles of good neighborliness,” the senior Iraqi official pointed out.

Sahaf underlined that unilateral actions, such as Turkey’s military offensive, will not help the combat against terrorism and will only exacerbate border tensions, calling on Turkish authorities to stand committed to bilateral security and intelligence coordination.

The Turkish military launched its ground campaign, dubbed Claw-Tiger Operation, against PKK positions in the Qandil Mountains as well as Sinjar and Makhmur districts of northern Iraq on June 17. Claw-Eagle Operation, the air campaign, had begun two days earlier.

The PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Turkish ground and air forces frequently carry out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.

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