President Erdoğan: Eradicating terrorism a must for Iraq’s future - M5 Dergi
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President Erdoğan: Eradicating terrorism a must for Iraq’s future

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated Türkiye’s commitment to wiping out the PKK terrorist group in Iraq while highlighting that counterterrorism efforts were also in the interest of his country’s neighbor for its development vision

Speaking to journalists after a landmark visit to Iraq, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Türkiye would eliminate any PKK elements holed up in Iraq’s north “one way or another.” In remarks published on Tuesday, the Turkish leader said that wiping out the terrorist group was also a prerequisite for a better tomorrow for Iraq, the development vision of Iraq and the security of international investments.

The terrorist group, which launched its first attacks in eastern Türkiye in the 1980s, has relied on mountainous territory in Iraq’s north, controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for hiding for decades. Most of its senior members are believed to be in the Qandil region.

Erdoğan, who earlier signaled a decisive cross-border operation this summer against the terrorist group, traveled to Iraq with counterterrorism and economy topping the list of topics he discussed with Iraqi officials. After meeting the president and prime minister in Baghdad, he traveled to Irbil, the seat of the KRG, later on Monday where he held talks with incumbent and former officials of the semi-autonomous entity.

On a question whether his earlier remarks on resolving the issue of terrorism this summer meant a joint operation with Iraq, in light of his visit, Erdoğan noted that the “swamp of terrorism can be drained with joint efforts of administrations in Iraq and Syria.”

“Nevertheless, we fight against all terrorist groups on our own without interruption. We conduct a comprehensive fight in Iraq and Syria and our resolve on this matter will prevail,” Erdoğan said.

He said counterterrorism operations, within Türkiye and beyond its borders, adhere to international laws and respect the territorial integrity of neighbors, referring to earlier criticism by Baghdad on the latter. “We wish our neighbors take their own stance against threats to us from their soil and conduct joint action. The PKK is a threat to Iraq’s stability, development and peace. It is in Iraq’s interest to eliminate this threat. I believe they see the reality and will demonstrate a will to that extent. Flattening out those pits of terrorism is a prerequisite for Iraq’s vision of development, for the security of international investments and for building a foreseeable future. We will eradicate terrorism one way or another, we are determined. We will not allow supporting terrorism, terrorist groups and those using those groups as puppets,” he said.

The president said he reiterated Türkiye’s expectation from Iraq to declare the PKK as a terrorist group during his talks with Iraqi officials. The PKK is currently defined as a banned organization by Iraq.

Erdoğan hailed 27 deals and memorandums of understanding signed during his visit, especially a deal on the Development Road project. “We took a historic step to establish a constructive, institutional identity for our relations,” he stated.

On his visit to Irbil, Erdoğan said the Turkish flags that adorned the streets of the KRG-run city were a sign of sincere friendship between Türkiye and the KRG.

“We discussed steps we can take jointly against the PKK threat (with the KRG) and confirmed that a permanent accomplishment in counterterrorism is essential for our region’s security,” he said.

Water issue

The president also spoke about the issue of water management. Iraq occasionally asks Türkiye to increase the volume of water downstream along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers straddling the two neighbors.

Erdoğan said Iraq had demands on the issue but that the real problem here is the “smart use” of water resources. “We have to draft new plans, new programs compatible with changing climate conditions and ensure sustainable use of water. Bear in mind that Türkiye needs water as much as Iraq. We are not a water-rich country and as a matter of fact, are among countries with water stress. Unless we create new plans soon, we can be challenged in terms of obtaining water. We need careful steps,” he said.

The president also said Türkiye avoided “emotional” discourse on the matter and favored a reconciling approach focusing on a concrete solution. “We have to launch joint projects based on a constructive approach. Water is not a matter of conflict, it is a matter that will serve our joint interests through cooperation,” he stated.

Steps for Gaza

Erdoğan also touched upon Türkiye’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict and bring Israel to justice for crimes against innocent civilians in Gaza. “Israel’s unprecedented massacres, intent to wipe out Gaza, require a new approach to (the conflict). Israel’s capture of Gaza will pave the way for future invasions. Opening Gaza to the settlement of Israeli thieves, terrorists will make Israel more aggressive, reckless. We cannot allow it,” he said.

“In the face of Israel’s spoiled, ruthless behavior, we will also strive to involve the United Nations and take joint steps with them. If the Islamic world does not awaken to the tremors caused by this chain of massacres bordering on genocide, it faces the danger of losing its reflexes completely. Therefore, it is not possible for us to remain silent here. The issue of Gaza is currently the most important issue for the Islamic world. Gaza is where the Islamic world should focus, reason, and create realistic and effective policies for a resolution. We will continue to discuss these issues with both Hamas authorities and leaders of many countries. Our primary agenda item is this issue, and we will continue to do more than our best for a solution. Everyone may ignore or forget this issue, but we cannot have such an approach,” he said.

Erdoğan last week hosted Ismail Haniyeh, a leader of Hamas, which Türkiye defines as a resistance group, unlike allies of Israel. “We will never abandon our Palestinian brothers and sisters, including Hamas. We have delivered some 45,000 tons of aid to Gaza so far and will ship more. Our history is intertwined with the Palestinian cause, and we are happy to be a part of it. We are glad to draw the admiration of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Time is running out for humanity. We have to do more for Palestine. We have to work to end the bitter cries of infants, to relieve the mourning hearts (of Palestinians),” he said.

Responding to a question about the possible departure of the Hamas members from Qatar under reported pressure and whether they may settle in Türkiye, Erdoğan said he did not hear anything about the issue and did not believe that Qatar would take such a step. “They are always treated as a member of the family, and I don’t think this will change in the future,” he said.

The president also vowed to pursue efforts to hold Israel’s Netanyahu administration accountable for crimes committed in Gaza. He mentioned that Türkiye presented evidence to the ongoing trial of Israel before the International Court of Justice.

“Netanyahu, the Hitler of our time, and his accomplices cannot evade justice,” he said.

Ties with Armenia

Erdoğan also answered a question on the seemingly changing rhetoric of Armenia for the normalization of ties with Türkiye. “A new order is being established in the region, and it is time to set aside baseless claims. It is time to move forward with realities on the ground. It is better than moving forward with fabrications, tales,” he said, referring to Armenia’s claim that Turks committed genocide against Armenians during World War I.

“Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan understands this (reality). Historians tackle history and this has always been our position on this issue. We opened our archives to historians. Now, it is time to create a new road map based on reality. I hope Armenia escapes from the darkness it was condemned to thanks to its diaspora and chooses the path to new beginnings,” he said.

A powerful lobby of the Armenian diaspora in the United States and Armenia campaign against normalization of ties between Türkiye and Armenia over genocide claims staunchly refuted by Türkiye.

“The door to opportunity will not remain open forever,” Erdoğan added.

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