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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Turkey-Iran operation against Kurdish rebels 'always on agenda': Erdogan

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

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to supporters in Istanbul on August 20, 2017. Presidency Press Service via AP, Pool
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to supporters in Istanbul on August 20, 2017. Presidency Press Service via AP, Pool

A joint operation between Turkey and Iran against Kurdish militants was "always on the agenda", president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, a week after Tehran's top armed forces commander visited Ankara for rare talks.

Turkey has battled the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for decades, while the Iranian security forces have fought its Iranian affiliate, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Both groups have rear bases in neighbouring Iraq.

"It is always on the agenda to carry out a joint operation with Iran against those terror organisations which pose a threat," Mr Erdogan said in Istanbul before a trip to Jordan.

His comments came after Iran's armed forces chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Turkey last week, with the two sides discussing ways to co-operate against Kurdish militants.

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During the visit, Iran made a "surprise proposal" to Ankara to launch a joint operation against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq's Kandil and Sinjar regions, the Turkish newspaper Turkiye reported on its front page on Monday.

The newspaper claimed the proposal sparked surprise in Ankara because Turkish officials have long complained that Iran has ignored its appeal for a joint campaign against the Kurdish insurgency.

Mr Erdogan confirmed to reporters on Monday that the two countries' military chiefs had discussed how to work against Kurdish militants.

"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 co-operate, we can reach a conclusion in a much shorter period of time."

"I hope that we will get a successful result there," he added, without offering further details on the timing or scope of an operation — should one be carried out.

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

For the past two years, the Turkish army has been waging a relentless campaign to eradicate the PKK, and occasionally launches air raids against the group's bases in northern Iraq.

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