Speaking late on Tuesday evening to Turkish state broadcaster TRT, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked how much longer Ankara should wait for the UN to eradicate militant groups from Makhmour, a camp 180km south of the Turkish border, in Iraq.
“If the United Nations does not clean it up, we will do it as a UN member,” Erdogan said, adding that he believes Makhmour poses as big a threat to Turkey as the PKK’s stronghold in the Qandil Mountains further north. The president described the migrant camp as an “incubator” for militants which requires action.
According to a senior Iraqi official who spoke to Reuters, last week Turkey complained to Baghdad about “terrorist activities launched by the PKK from their camp in Makhmour against Turkey.”
The PKK, designated a terrorist group by the US and the EU, has fought against Turkey since 1984 in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey, a conflict which has claimed over 40,000 lives.
Makhmour has existed since the 1990s when Kurds in Turkey moved across the border into Iraq, a move Ankara said was provoked by the PKK. The camp has since hosted thousands of Turkish citizens, among others.
The camp also sits in the Erbil Governorate, near the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region. The Kurds were an important ally to the West and the US in the fight against Islamic State. The region still hosts a US military base.
Turkish airstrikes hit the camp in 2020, but there were no reports of casualties.