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Joint Turkish-Iranian operation against Kurds 'on the agenda'

Turkey has battled the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for decades. [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 August, 2017

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Erdogan said on Monday that a joint military operation with Iran against Kurdish factions was 'always on the agenda', a week after Tehran's top military commander visited Ankara for talks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that a joint military operation with Iran against Kurdish factions was "always on the agenda", a week after Tehran's top military commander visited Ankara for rare talks.

Turkey has battled the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for decades, while the Iranian security forces have also fought its affiliate, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

Both groups have rear bases in neighbouring Iraq.

Iran's armed forces' Chief-of-Staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Turkey last week, with the two sides discussing ways to cooperate against Kurdish militants.

During the meeting Iran made a "surprise proposal" to launch joint operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq's Kandil and Sinjar regions, the Turkish newspaper Turkiye reported on Monday.

Erdogan told reporters that "it is always on the agenda to carry out a joint operation with Iran against those terror organisations which pose a threat".

The Turkish president did not specify where such operations would take place, but the question posed to him by journalists on the Turkiye report referenced Iraq.

"The work will continue because you know that the PKK terror organisation has a foot in Iran," he said.

"They always cause harm to Iran and to us. We work because we believe that if the two countries cooperate, we can reach a conclusion in a much shorter period of time," he said.

"I hope that we will get a successful result there," he added, without offering further details on the timing or scope of the operation.

The PKK is designated as a terror group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Boost for bilateral relations

Ties between Turkey and Iran have been tense in recent years, with both nations lying on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict.

Turkey seeks to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, while Iran - together with Russia - remain the Syrian regime leader's key allies.

Iranian military commander Bagheri's visit - which saw him meet both Erdogan and Turkey's top general Hulusi Akar – is seen as a key moment for bilateral relations.

Bagheri said that during his visit it was agreed that Turkey would step up the control of its border with Iran.

"The actions of Turkey and Iran complement themselves. We reached good agreements to prevent terrorists passing from one side of the border to the other," he said. 

Turkey has already begun building a "security wall" along part of its border with Iran, regional officials said this month, along the lines of a similar barrier on the Syrian border.

Bagheri added that both sides were also united in opposition to a plan by the leadership in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum on independence on 25 September.

Such geographical changes "could provoke tensions and clashes inside Iraq and would not be limited to that country", Bagheri added.

Widely seen as the world's largest stateless people, most Kurds are spread between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The Kurds have been seeking an independent state since the end of the First World War, but it is only in Iraq where they have achieved a recognised autonomy.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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