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Turkish President Claims Iran Joins Military Offensive Against Kurdish Separatists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Iran has joined a Turkish military offensive against Kurdish separatists.

Turkey repeated its claim that it and Iran were jointly carrying out a military operation against Kurdish separatists, although semiofficial Iranian media quoted its country’s military of denying it was involved.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on March 18 said the operation was targeting militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), adding it was the first of its kind and that he hoped further missions would follow.

Turkish TRT channel quoted Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu as saying, “Today, at 8:00 a.m., Turkey, together with Iran, carried out our first joint operation."

It was not clear where the operation was happening.

Millions of ethnic Kurds live in the mountainous region along the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Some have links to Turkey's militant PKK, which has for decades fought for an independent homeland.

Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency reported that its army denied involvement in the operation.

"The Turkish army carried out the operation against the militant group PKK, but Iran's armed forces were not part of the operation," Fars quoted an Iranian military source as saying.

"Iran's armed forces will severely counter any group that intends to create insecurity in our country," the source added.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the past has clashed with Kurdish rebel groups in the northern part of the country near the Turkish border and across the border in Iraq.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) occasionally carries out attacks inside Iran from its bases in Iraq and is listed as a "terrorist" group by Tehran. Several of its leaders have been killed in attacks the group has blamed on Tehran.

The group is an armed leftist party made up of ethnic Kurds from Iran. It has been based in northern Iraq after it was banned in Iran.

With reporting by Reuters, Fars, and TASS