Turkey is involved in a non-international armed conflict on its territory against the Kurdistan Worker's Party. The conflict extends into Iraq, hence Turkey is also involved in the non-international armed conflicts in Iraq and an international armed conflict with Iraq. Turkey is also a party to the non-international and international armed conflicts in Syria and occupies part of northern Syria.
Turkey is currently a party to a series of armed conflicts. For further information on who is considered a party to an armed conflict, see ‘contemporary challenges – multinational forces: who is a party to the conflict?’ in our classification section.
- Turkey is involved in a non-international armed conflict on its territory against the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK.
- Turkey is a party to the non-international armed conflicts in Iraq, but not as part of the international coalition led by the United States: Against the background of the renewed non-international armed conflict in Turkey, Turkey launched airstrikes targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK in northern Iraq in July 2015. C. Yeginsu, 'Turkey Attacks Kurdish Militant Camps in Northern Iraq', The New York Times, 25 July 2015; C. Letsch and Reuters, 'Turkey Steps Up Bombing of Kurdish Targets in Iraq', The Guardian, 29 July 2015. In September 2015, Turkish troops entered Iraq for the first time in over two years to pursue suspected PKK members. ‘Turkey Sends Ground Forces into Iraq After Militant Attack’, BBC, 8 September 2015. Moreover, in December 2015, Turkey sent additional troops to protect their base set up near the Iraqi city of Mosul, used to provide training to Iraqi militia fighting against the Islamic State group. The Iraqi government condemned the Turkish incursion without its consent as a violation of their sovereignty. During discussions before the Security Council, the Iraqi ambassador qualified the Turkish incursion as a ‘ serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty and the principles of international law relating to good-neighbourly relations, mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of Member States, in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations’ and pointed out that ‘ such military movements constitute a hostile act under established international rules and norms.’ The Turkish representative argued that the increased troop presence was necessary to protect their camp against Islamic State group attacks and highlighted that ‘Turkey has been under attack not only by Daesh but also by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) terrorist organization’, based in Iraq. ‘It is our right to exercise self-defence’, as ‘both Daesh and the PKK continue to pose significant threats to Turkey’s safety and security from areas beyond the reach of the Iraqi Government'. 7589th meeting of the Security Council, UN doc S/PV.7589, 18 December 2015. See also Letter Dated 11 December 2015 from the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council, UN doc S/2015/963, 14 December 2015; Letter Dated 7 January 2016 from the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council, UN doc S/2016/6, 11 January 2016. The airstrikes against the PKK continued in 2016, 2017 and January 2018. See for example 'Turkey Hits Kurdish Targets After Ankara Bombing', Al Jazeera, 19 February 2016; I. Sariyuce, J. Sterling, and H. Atay Alam, 'Turkish Warplanes Wallop Syria, Iraq Targets', CNN, 29 August 2016; M. R. Gordon and K. Kakol, 'Turkish STrikes Target Kurdish Allies of U.S. in Raq and Syria', The New York Times, 25 April 2017; 'Turkish Airstrikes Kill 49 Kurdish Militants in Northern Iraq - Army', Reuters, 1 February 2018. The Iraqi government condemned the Turkish airstrikes as a flagrant violation of its sovereignty. In discussions before the Security Council, the Iraqi representative pointed out that 'on 25 April 2017, in a clear and flagrant violation of our sovereignty, good neighbourliness, the rules of international humanitarian law and the Charter of the United Nations, Turkish forces illegally entered Iraqi airspace and territory by bombarding the Mount Sinjar region of northern Iraq with more than 20 bombs'. 7945th meeting of the Security Council, UN doc S/PV.7945, 22 May 2017, p 18. In October 2017 and January 2018, Turkey reportedly launched new ground operations in northern Iraq against the PKK. 'Turkish Army Engages in Northern Iraq for the First Time in Nine Years', Hürryiet Daily News, 18 October 2017; 'Turkey Launches First Ground Operation in Northern Iraq', AMN, 14 January 2018. Due to its use of force in Iraq without the consent of the Iraqi government, Turkey is a party to the international armed conflict in Iraq.
- Turkey is a party to the non-international armed conflicts in Syria against the Islamic State group and the Kurdish People's Protection Units. With respect to the Islamic State group, Turkey launched its first airstrikes against Islamic State group targets in Syria in July 2015. At the same time, Turkey reached an agreement with the United States for the use of its airbase to carry out airstrikes. In its letter to the United Nations Security Council, Turkey argued that the action was based on individual and collective self-defence and pointed out that it was coordinating its actions with the coalition against the Islamic State group. Letter Dated 24 July 2015 from the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council, UN doc S/2015/563, 24 July 2015. See also C. Letsch, K. Shaheen, and S. Ackerman, ‘Turkey Carries Out First Ever Strikes Against Isis in Syria’, The Guardian, 24 July 2015; ‘Turkey Bombs Islamic State Targets in Syria’, BBC, 24 July 2015. In August 2015, Turkey announced that it had joined the coalition against the Islamic State group led by the United States and conducted further airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Syria. G. Tuysuz and Z. Bilginsay, ‘Ministry: Turkey Joins Coalition Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria’, CNN, 29 August 2015; C.Mills, ISIS/Daesh: The Military Response in Iraq and Syria, Commons Briefing Papers SN06995, 9 November 2016, p 27. In parallel, Turkey targets the Kurdish People's Protection Units YPG in Syria. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker's Party PKK and aims to prevent the establishment of a contiguous autonomous Kurdish region between Afrin and Kobane. Relying on its right to self-defence, See identical letters dated 20 January 2018 20 January 2018 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council, UN doc S/2018/53, 22 January 2018. Turkey initiated a ground offensive against Kurdish militia in Afrin in January 2018, backed by allied Syrian rebel groups. K. Shaheen, 'Turkey Starts Ground Incursion into Kurdish-Controlled Afrin in Syria', The Guardian, 21 January 2018; E. Cunningham and L. Loveluck, 'Turkey Says Its Troops Have Entered Syria in Fight Against Kurdish Militias', The Washington Post, 21 January 2018; 'Turkey Deploys Thousands of FSA Rebels at Syria Border', Al Jazeera, 20 January 2018.
- In August 2016, Turkey initiated a ground operation in northern Syria, known as operation Euphrates Shield. The operation pursued the dual objective of supporting Syrian armed groups in their offenses against the Islamic State group in the border area and to contain the expansion of the YPG in the same area. T. Arango, A. Barnard, and C. Yeginsu, ‘Turkey’s Military Plunges Into Syria, Enabling Rebels to Capture ISIS Stronghold’, The New York Times, 25 August 2016; C.Mills, ISIS/Daesh: The Military Response in Iraq and Syria, Commons Briefing Papers SN06995, 9 November 2016, p 17. In its letter to the Security Council, Turkey justified its 'military opreation against Deash' on the basis of self-defence due to attacks by the Islamic State group against Turkey and more broadly its responsibility to secure its borders in the context of the fight against terrorism pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 2178 (2015), see Letter Dated 24 August 2016 from the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council, UN doc S/2016/739, 25 August 2016. Reportedly, armed clashes broke out between Turkish armed forces and the YPG during the operation. ‘Turkey Fires on U.S. Backed Kurdish Militia in Syria Offensive’, Reuters, 26 August 2016; ‘Turkey: “Operations Will Continue in Northern Syria’, Al Jazeera, 30 August 2016. The Syrian government condemned the Turkish operation. ‘Syria Condemns Turkey’s Breach of Sovereignty in Jarablus’, The Syrian Observatory, 25 August 2016. The Turkish operation is on going. ‘Turkish Air Strikes Kills 23 Islamic State Militants in Syria’s Al-Bab Region – Army’, Reuters, 7 December 2016; ‘Russia Bombs IS-held Town in Syria, Aids Turkish Advance’, Middle East Eye, 29 December 2016. As a result of operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey is occupying parts of northern Syria.
- Turkey is a party to the international armed conflicts in Syria due to its use of armed force without consent of the Syrian government.
- Since 1974, Turkey has been occupying northern Cyprus.