BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government on Tuesday condemned Turkey's incursion into northern Iraq and demanded that it withdraw its troops, as fighting continued for a sixth day between Turkish forces and Kurdish rebels.
"The council expresses its rejection and condemnation to the Turkish military incursion, which is considered a violation to the Iraqi sovereignty," the Iraqi Cabinet said in a statement. "The Cabinet stresses that unilateral military action is not acceptable and threatens good relations between the two neighbors."
The semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government also condemned the incursions in a special session Tuesday.
"The Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan is a violation of Iraqi sovereignty," said Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Department of Foreign Relations, in an interview Tuesday.
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, defended the operations against the rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist organization. In a televised speech Tuesday, Erdogan said the military action was "not aimed at northern Iraq but only the terror organization," the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency reported.
He said that the Turkish government was "in communication with" the U.S. and Iraqi governments and that Turkey was grateful for "the strong, cooperative attitude of the Iraqi administration" and for "intelligence support and cooperation" from the United States.
Turkish television showed troops slogging through heavy snow in the rugged mountains in northern Iraq. Casualty figures from Turkish sources and sources for the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have varied widely. Turkey has reported killing more than 150 rebels, while confirming the deaths of 19 Turkish soldiers. The PKK contends it has lost only a handful of fighters, while killing 81 Turkish soldiers.
The PKK demands autonomy for Kurds in southern Turkey and has been attacking Turkish soil from Kurdish bases in Turkey and northern Iraq since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.