Turkish drone attacks in northern Iraq have killed seven members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), authorities said, as the country’s foreign minister met the president and prime minister of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“A Turkish army drone struck a PKK vehicle, killing an official and two fighters”, the KRG’s counterterrorism services said on Thursday.
The attack took place in Sidakan district, north of the regional capital Erbil.
Later, the counter-terrorism services said that another drone strike in Sidakan had killed four PKK members, including two medical personnel.
The PKK has fought a rebellion against Turkey since 1984, and has bases inside KRG territory.
While the attacks were not mentioned by either Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan or KRG Prime Minister Masour Barzani during a news conference after their meeting, Fidan did reference the fight against the PKK, and Ankara’s continuing military operation there, which began in April 2022.
“We have settled this question in Turkey once and for all,” Fidan said. “We are working with Baghdad and Erbil to protect Iraq from the PKK.”
During a visit to the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Tuesday, Fidan had urged the federal government to brand the PKK a “terrorist” organisation, as it is labelled in Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Oil exports, which Turkey has blocked from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq since March, were also on the agenda for the Turkish delegation to the KRG, which included Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar.
“We discussed a range of regional issues, including bilateral Iraq-Turkey relations and also with the Kurdistan Region, as well as the mechanism of exporting the Kurdistan region’s oil,” Barzani said in the joint news conference with Fidan.
Neither official gave any further information on Iraq’s northern oil exports and did not say if a deal had been reached to resume crude flows through Turkey.
Longstanding Iraq-Turkey tensions over oil
Turkey halted flows on March 25 after an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ordered Ankara to pay Baghdad damages of $1.5 billion for unauthorised exports by the KRG between 2014 and 2018.
Iraq – the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – had filed for arbitration against Turkey in 2014 after the KRG sidelined Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) and began exporting crude oil through the neighbouring country. Iraq claimed that all oil exports had to go through state-owned SOMO under a 1973 agreement with Turkey.
Recent talks held between Turkey and Iraq
Iraq’s oil minister had been in Ankara earlier this week to discuss the issue, but he and his Turkish counterpart failed to reach an agreement to restart the oil exports, although both sides agreed on further talks.
An Iraqi oil ministry official with an understanding of the northern oil exports operations told Reuters on Tuesday that the Turkish energy ministry informed Iraq’s SOMO last month that it needed more time to check the technical feasibility of resuming flows through the pipeline.
Iraqi energy officials said that the visit of their oil minister was aimed at reaching common ground with Turkey regarding a clear date when oil exports should be resumed.
“It’s not an easy job to reach an agreement soon, and we have a lot of thorny issues. Turkey has demands and conditions that require further talks to allow oil flow restart,” said an oil ministry official with knowledge of Tuesday’s meeting.