Turkish operation on Kurdish rebels in Iraq is matter of timing: minister

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish forces are waiting for the right time to carry out an operation in northern Iraq’s Qandil region where high-ranking members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are located, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Monday.

The militant group frequently carries out attacks on Turkey from its camps in the Qandil mountains, a remote region of Kurdish-run northern Iraq.

“Qandil is not a distant target for us any more. Right now, a lot of positions have been seized there (by Turkish forces), especially in the northern Iraq region,” Soylu told the Anadolu state news agency in a televised interview.

“Timing is what is important for us right now.”

Turkey has conducted frequent air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq. It previously carried out cross-border operations in the region in the 1990s and 2000s.

“Qandil will be made into a safe place for Turkey, no one should doubt that,” Soylu said.

The PKK has waged an insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since the 1980s and some 40,000 people have been killed in clashes. It is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones