Türkiye did not carry out any attack against civilians in northern Iraq's Duhok province, the country's foreign minister said on Thursday.
"According to information we received from the Turkish Armed Forces, we did not carry out any attack on civilians," Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a live interview with national broadcaster TRT Haber.
Cavusoglu's remarks came a day after an attack in Duhok’s Zakho district killed eight people.
In a statement released after Wednesday's attack, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called on Iraqi government officials not to make statements on the Duhok attack "under the influence of rhetoric and propaganda" of the PKK terrorist organization.
Turkish security sources also denied reports "in support of the terrorist organization PKK," which claimed the civilians lost their lives due to shelling by Turkish forces.
Cavusoglu pledged that Türkiye would “cooperate with the Iraqi authorities after the treacherous attack that we believe was carried out by terrorist groups.”
He added that Türkiye rejects both official and unofficial statements seeking to link it to the attack.
The PKK's propaganda in Iraq comes at a time when Türkiye is set to launch a new operation against the terror group’s offshoot the YPG/PKK in northern Syria, across the Turkish border, said Cavusoglu, urging Iraqi authorities must not fall into the trap of terrorist groups.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the European Union, and the US, and is responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the terrorist PKK’s Syrian branch.
Türkiye, said Cavusoglu, will continue its fight against terrorism in line with international law, only targeting terrorist groups.
"The whole world knows that Türkiye has never carried out an attack on civilians. We continue our fight against terrorism in accordance with international law," he added.
Denying allegations that protesters entered the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad after the attack, Cavusoglu said: "Entering our embassy is out of the question. Iraqi authorities have taken the necessary security measures everywhere. We thank them too. In front of some of our visa offices, a group of rabble-rousers burned our flag. Apart from that, there was a demonstration in front of our old embassy, and then they dispersed."
Finland, Sweden’s NATO bids
Cavusoglu said officials from Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden will meet in August to evaluate the progress made in fulfilling Ankara's counter-terrorism demands from the Nordic countries paving the way for NATO membership.
He said the meeting in August would be the first of a monitoring committee formed under a deal signed last month. He added that Türkiye would block their membership bids if Stockholm and Helsinki fail to keep their promises.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join the transatlantic alliance in June, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine.
But Türkiye, a NATO member for 70 years, voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terror groups.
A trilateral agreement signed among the countries in June stipulates that Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the YPG/PYD, the PKK's Syrian offshoot, nor to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye, and said Ankara extends full support to Finland and Sweden against threats to their national security.
‘Our hands won’t be tied’ on F-16s
On US legislation designed to restrict the circumstances of F-16 sales to Türkiye, Cavusoglu said: "Of course, we made an attempt to buy the F-16s from the US, but we cannot agree to a method that will tie our hands."
The US House of Representatives last week approved legislation that would create a new hurdle for US President Joe Biden’s plan to sell F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye.
The amendment prohibits the sale or transfer of F-16s and modernization kits to Ankara unless the president certifies the transfer is in the US' national interests, and guarantees to Congress that in the 120 days prior to the transfer, the Turkish government has not "violated the sovereignty of Greece, including through territorial overflights."
Congress must approve the sales for them to go forward.
"What do you mean by Greek airspace?" Cavusoglu asked, saying that there are Aegean islands which Greece unfairly claims as its own.
He called on the US to follow a balanced policy between Türkiye and Greece.
Ukrainian grain exports
Cavusoglu said the talks between Türkiye, Russia, Ukraine and the UN on facilitating Ukrainian grain exports are "going well so far."
"We’re making sincere efforts to reach an agreement, both on the cease-fire (in the Ukraine war) and the removal of obstacles to grain exports," he said, adding he is hopeful about reaching a deal.
Last week, Türkiye hosted officials from Russia, Ukraine and the UN in Istanbul to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports. Ankara said a general agreement was reached, and it hopes to put this into written one this week.
Normalization process with Armenia
On the ongoing normalization process with neighboring Armenia, Cavusoglu said Türkiye expects concrete steps.
"We want to see in practice how sincere Armenia is. So far there are messages, there are explanations. There's also pressure, it's true. The (Armenian) diaspora from the outside, fanatic groups from inside. But when we come to concrete steps, we haven't seen those concrete steps from Armenia yet," he said.
He added that Türkiye wants to see steps from the Armenian administration under Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
"The steps to be taken in the region are in everyone’s interests," he added.
Ankara and Yerevan last December appointed special representatives for talks on normalizing the ties, with the first meeting held in Moscow on Jan. 14. The parties have held four meetings so far.
As part of normalization efforts, this February Türkiye and Armenia resumed commercial flights after a two-year hiatus.