ARBIL, Iraq (AFP) – Iraq’s autonomous Kurds vowed on Friday to fight off any attack on their region, as Turkey mulled a military incursion to crack down on Kurdish rebels.
Iraqi Kurds were not to blame for the trouble between Turkey and the rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), said a statement issued from the office of Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani.
“We frankly say to all parties: if they attack the region or Kurdistan experiment under whatever pretext, we will be completely ready to defend our democratic experiment and the dignity of our people and the sanctity of our homeland,” it said.
The Turkish parliament gave permission to the military on Wednesday to launch an incursion into northern Iraq to pursue the rebels although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoyan has indicated that no such action is imminent.
Turkey says the PKK enjoys free movement in northern Iraq and is tolerated or even actively supported by Iraqi Kurdish leaders, something they strongly deny.
“We are astonished by this tension during the past few days and the Turkish stance in crossing Kurdistan’s borders under the pretext of striking at the PKK.
“Kurdistan is not responsible for the war between Turkey and the PKK, after all, and we have not supported the war or the violence and bloodletting or been dragged into this war,” said the statement from Barzani.
“The Kurdish region strongly rejects the charges of helping the PKK,” it added.
Barzani’s office again stressed that the regional government stood ready to hold direct talks with Ankara over its concerns and urged the United States, the European Union and the United Nations to help promote dialogue instead of war.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to Ankara that he would bring an end to the presence of the PKK in northern Iraq, who he has labelled “terrorists” several times in recent days.
But the situation on the ground means his options are limited. The Iraqi army is not deployed on the Turkish border or anywhere else in the autonomous region, where security is under the control of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga militiamen.