ANKARA (Combined Sources) — Turkey will serve as the guarantor of Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity, the Turkish government said on Tuesday, signaling Ankara’s growing role in the war-torn country’s affairs.
A statement issued by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Turkey was against any kind of undermining of Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity.
The declaration comes days after Turkey hosted trilateral talks in Ankara with US and Iraqi officials to discuss closer cooperation in fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Northern Iraq.
Turkey’s military forces have been fighting in Iraqi since the country’s legislature gave the government a mandate to launch cross-border incursions into Northern Iraq in October 2007 and extended it again in 2008.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 for liberation from Turkish oppression and the establishment of an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey. It’s feared that the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq may seek independence from an already fractured Iraq, struggling to keep itself together as fissures between its Kurds, Shiites and Sunis deepen.
Underlying the frictions are larger questions about whether Kurds, who make up a fifth of Iraqis, can repair deeply strained ties with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad as Kurds assert rights to the oil-producing Kirkuk region and other Kurdish areas lying outside current borders of their relatively peaceful region.
“Turkey can no way support any act that could harm Iraq’s territorial integrity, political unity and stability,” the statement said, stressing that Ankara was among the countries that attach the most importance to Iraq’s political unity, territorial integrity and economic welfare.
The United Nations earlier in July, urged Iraqi Kurds not to push for a referendum on bringing Kirkuk into Kurdistan, warning such a vote would ignite a war.
The oil rich region is at the heart of a power struggle pitting the Iraqi government in Baghdad against the largely autonomous Kurdistan region to the north. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is also pushing ahead with an aggressive strategy for exploiting their own oil and gas fields, pitting them against the Iraqi Oil Ministry.
The simmering row between Kurds and Arabs over land and oil is seen as a major threat to Iraq, as the sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006 and 2007 recedes.
“To support the political process in Iraq, Turkey has been in mutual contact, consultation and cooperation with the Iraqi government regarding all initiatives towards the Iraqi opposition groups,” the statement said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said Turkey was attaching great importance to its cooperation with the Iraqi authorities.
But that cooperation does not come free. Turkey Wednesday reiterated that Iraq must do more to eliminate the PKK in Northern Iraq. Iraq, in turn, has pledged to help Turkey and the United States in efforts to combat the PKK until the liberation movement is eliminated.