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Turkey confirms progress of troops towards the stronghold of PKK in northern Iraq

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) –┬áThe Turkish army is moving towards the rear bases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels in the Kandil mountains in northern Iraq, the interior minister said, adding that starting a military operation was only a “matter of timing.”

Since 1984, the PKK, which Ankara, Washington and the European Union consider a “terrorist” organization, has been waging a bloody insurgency in Turkey, but its military leadership is based in the northern Kandil mountains near the border with Turkey.

“Mount Qandil is no longer a distant target for us, and our forces have made significant progress in the Hawkurk region,” said Interior Minister Suleiman Suwailo.

It is not a question (whether we will launch) a process (or not), but the timing, “he said in an interview with the official Anatolia news agency. “We will move the Qandil mountain in northern Iraq to a safe place for Turkey,” he said.

In recent weeks, the Turkish army has stepped up its incursions into the area it regularly targets with air strikes.

Last week, Turkey announced the deaths of four of its soldiers in clashes with the PKK in northern Iraq.

Turkey has repeatedly raised the possibility of a cross-border military operation in northern Iraq, such as the August 2016 Euphrates Shield and the Olive Branch in northern Iraq against Kurdish guerrillas in northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called on the Iraqi government to act against PKK bases in northern Iraq, threatening to intervene if it does not.

Solilo’s comments come less than three weeks before a presidential and legislative election in Turkey, where the latest military operation against Kurdish guerrillas in Afrin has been widely supported.

Southeastern Turkey has seen almost daily clashes between security forces and Kurdish rebels since the summer of 2015 when a cease-fire aimed at ending a conflict that has killed some 40,000 people since 1984 collapsed.