President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted on Thursday that Turkey could attack the Makhmur camp in northern Iraq, a refugee camp monitored by the United Nations for Kurds who fled Turkey after military operations there in the 1990s.
Erdoğan appeared on a TV broadcast and answered questions about an expected military offensive against camps of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains.
“The situation has two aspects. Qandil and Sinjar [also in Iraq]. If any threat from Iraq to Turkey emerges, we will discuss it with the Baghdad government. If Baghdad says, ‘We can solve this,’ it’s better. If it says, ‘We can’t solve it,’ we will hit both Sinjar and Qandil,” Erdoğan said.
He later said Qandil was supplied by the Makhmur refugee camp.
“I’m saying this for the first time. Makhmur. It is too important. The UN may say this or that… The UN should resolve the issue. Makhmur is an incubation zone. Terrorists have been raised there,” he added.
The camp has been the subject of dispute between the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous northern part of the country since the camp’s establishment in 1998.
Turkey over the years has repeatedly asked the UN to close the camp over allegations that it supports PKK militants.
Erdoğan said on TV he had discussed the issue several times with Ban Ki-Moon, the former secretary-general of the UN.
The Turkish army has reportedly been preparing for an operation against the PKK’s stronghold in northern Iraq, although the Turkish opposition has slammed the government for using counterterrorism measures for political gain in upcoming elections.
Turkey will hold snap elections on June 24.