Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a joint operation with Iran against Kurdish militants was ‘always on the agenda’, 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 also fought its 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,’ Erdogan told reporters 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 cooperate against the militants.
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 had long complained that Tehran had long left Turkey alone in its fight against the PKK's cadres, financial structuring and political activities.
Erdogan confirmed that the two countries' military chiefs 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 cooperate, we can reach a conclusion in a much shorter period of time,’ he said.
‘I hope that we will get a successful result there,’ he added, without offering further details on the timing or scope of the operation.
The PKK is designated as a terror group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
The Turkish army has been waging a relentless campaign in the last months to eradicate the PKK, and occasionally launches air raids against the group's bases in northern Iraq.
Ankara has long complained Iran has ignored its appeal for a joint campaign against the Kurdish insurgency.
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