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Iraq bans PKK as security ties with Turkey gain momentum

The decision comes after the high-level talks between Turkish and Iraqi officials in Baghdad.
High-level officials from Turkey and Iraq held a security summit in Baghdad, March 14, 2024.

ANKARA — Iraq National Security Council has banned the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed campaign against the Turkish forces for Kurdish self-rule inside Turkey.

The decision was disclosed on Thursday in joint Iraqi-Turkish statement issued after a high-level security meeting in Baghdad.  

“Turkey welcomes the Iraqi National Security Council’s decision to designate the PKK as a banned organization in Iraq,” said the statement shared on both the Turkish and Iraqi foreign ministries' websites. 

The PKK, which is listed as a terror outfit by Ankara, Washington and the European Union, is headquartered in northern Iraqi Kurdistan, where Turkey conducts routine airstrikes and holds hundreds of military outposts. 

Turkish foreign and defense ministers Hakan Fidan and Yasar Guler as well as intelligence chief Ibrahim Kalin on Thursday held counterterrorism talks with their counterparts in Baghdad. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Mohammed Hussein, Defense Minister Thabet al-Abbasi and other high-level Iraqi officials along with Kurdistan Regional Government’s Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed joined the talks, according to the statement.

Fidan's chief advisor Nuh Yilmaz hailed the move as a "turning point."

Turkey and Iraq "decided for the first time to jointly fight against PKK terrorism," he wrote on X. "A decision that will mark a turning point! We will see the results gradually!"

The parties also decided to set up joint committees to “work exclusively in the fields of counterterrorism, trade, agriculture, energy, water, health, and transportation,” the statement said. 

Speaking earlier this week, Guler said his country offered to establish “a joint operation center” to strengthen the two countries' coordination in Turkey’s fight against the PKK but that the sides failed to achieve progress on the matter.

Ankara has long been pressing Baghdad to designate the armed group a terrorist organization. But the central Iraqi government has deemed Turkey’s operations against the group and its military outposts in the Iraqi territory as a violation of its sovereignty. 

Thursday's move indicates that the two countries’ positions on the issue are becoming more aligned as preparations are underway for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s upcoming visit to the country in April. The Turkish leader’s visit will mark the first of its kind for more than a decade. 

“The parties stressed the importance of Iraq’s political unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” Thursday’s statement said. “They have also stressed that the PKK constitutes a security threat for both Turkey and Iraq.”