Turkey, Iraq to carry out joint operation against Kurdish militants in Iraq: Turkish formin

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at the Turkish booth at the International Tourism Trade Fair ITB in Berlin, Germany, March 7, 2018. Banner should read : Turkey, always beautiful. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad will carry out a joint operation against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Cavusoglu’s comments came as Turkey pushed ahead with a cross-border military operation against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria’s Afrin region.

Speaking to reporters on his flight from Germany to Austria, Cavusoglu said the Afrin operation, launched on Jan. 20, will be completed by May, according to broadcaster CNN Turk.

Cavusoglu was quoted as saying the joint cross-border operation with Iraq may start after Iraq holds parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2018, signaling Turkish troops may move to northern Iraq following the ongoing offensive.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since the 1980s, has camps in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq, from which it frequently carries out attacks into Turkey.

The PKK is viewed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Ankara considers the YPG to be a Syrian extension of the PKK.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Daren Butler