Turkey fears PKK could obtain arms sent to Iraq

Weapons sent by Western countries to forces fighting Islamic militants in Iraq may end up in the hands of Kurdish rebels in Turkey, Turkish foreign minister warned on Monday.

AFP| Last Updated: Sep 09, 2014, 00:38 AM IST

Istanbul: Weapons sent by Western countries to forces fighting Islamic militants in Iraq may end up in the hands of Kurdish rebels in Turkey, Turkish foreign minister warned on Monday.

Branded a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies, the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) has joined forces with other Kurdish units in the US-backed operation to halt the advance of Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq.

"The weapons sent (to Iraq) should not end up in the hands of terrorist organisations. They should not end up in the hands of the PKK," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the state-run Anatolia news agency.

"We have expressed our concerns... It may not be possible to control where these weapons will go," he warned.

Ankara began clandestine peace talks two years ago with the PKK, whose 30-year insurgency in the southeast has claimed at least 40,000 lives, but the talks have stalled over Kurdish demands for reform.

The arming of forces on the ground including Iraqi Kurdish fighters in the face of the jihadist onslaught is likely to be on the agenda during US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to Ankara today, a diplomatic source told.

US President Barack Obama will on Wednesday lay out his "game plan" to deal with the jihadists, set to include "carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops."

Turkish Kurds from the PKK have fought against the jihadists in parts of northern Iraq, with assistance from Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Ankara has been criticised by some commentators for indirectly encouraging the formation of Islamic State through its wholehearted support of Islamist elements within the Syrian rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.

IS militants are now holding 49 Turks hostage, including diplomats and children, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq on June 11.