In the middle of the discussion about Turkey’s rejection of NATO’s northern expansion, a new dispute between Germany and Turkey over Turkish military interventions in Iraq is emerging.
In a new report, the Bundestag’s scientific service comes to the conclusion that the most recent Turkish invasion of Iraq to combat the terrorist organization PKK can hardly be justified under international law. According to the report, which is available to our Istanbul office, the PKK fighters in northern Iraq do not currently pose any direct or concrete threat to Turkey.
The left-wing politician Gökay Akbulut is therefore calling for all deliveries of weapons and weapons technology to NATO partner Turkey to be stopped.
Turkey began a new invasion of northern Iraq a month ago. It uses fighter planes, drones, artillery and ground forces to destroy PKK supply routes and ammunition dumps.
The Iraqi government has criticized the intervention as a violation of its territory and a “hostile act,” but it has had little impact on developments in northern Iraq.
The region is ruled by the Kurdish regional government, which works with Ankara. The regional government is fine with limiting the influence of the PKK in the area.
The PKK maintains its headquarters in Iraq and, according to Turkish information, is planning new attacks in Turkey, which the invasion should prevent.
There are spring offensives by the Turkish army in Iraq almost every year. They are intended to make it more difficult for the PKK to infiltrate Turkey and supply its Syrian offshoot, the YPG militia.
According to the Turkish government, more than 80 PKK fighters have been killed in the current invasion. Turkey has been fighting the PKK for almost 40 years and maintains permanent military posts in Iraqi territory.
Shortly after the start of the new Turkish offensive, when asked by Akbulut, the German government expressed concern about the Turkish military operation in the neighboring country, but avoided commenting on whether the action violated international law.
Akbulut then applied for the opinion of the scientific service in the Bundestag, whose experts examine legal questions for the deputies.
The report rejects Turkey’s argument that it must intervene in Iraq because the Iraqi state itself is not in a position to prevent PKK attacks. Ankara does not name any specific PKK attack that made the operation necessary, write the experts in the Bundestag.
In fact, the number of PKK attacks in Turkey has decreased rather than increased in recent years. As long as there is no concrete attack or acute danger, Turkey cannot invoke the right to self-defence under the United Nations Charter. There are “very serious doubts” about the Turkish argument.
Akbulut called on the federal government to condemn Turkey’s intervention and to stop arms deliveries. “This is especially true in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” she said. “It is absolutely unacceptable for the ‘ally’ Turkey to disregard international law in this way.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also sent soldiers to northern Syria several times in recent years to force a PKK-affiliated militia out of the border area with Turkey. Some EU countries such as Finland and Sweden imposed an arms embargo on Ankara.
Erdogan’s government is demanding an end to sanctions as a precondition for the two Scandinavian countries’ approval for NATO accession.
The Federal Foreign Office commented on the Bundestag report that the Federal Government attaches great importance to “respect for state sovereignty”. However, “there are no own findings that would allow a conclusive evaluation of the Turkish military operations in north-eastern Syria and northern Iraq under international law”.
With regard to the demand for a stop to German arms deliveries, the ministry said that Ankara had not received any weapons for years “that could be used by Turkey in the context of regional military operations”.