At odds with Baghdad, Ankara, Arbil get closer
Residents demanding Ankara extradite Iraq’s vice president protest in front of the Turkish consulate in Basra on May 19. ‘Turkey will not take a step to return al-Hashemi to authorities in Baghdad since there is no arrest warrant,’ PM Erdoğan says. REUTERS photoTurkey has condemned Iraq after around 200 protesters demanding that Ankara extradite Iraq’s fugitive vice president burned the Turkish flag on May 19 at a demonstration near the Turkish Consulate General in Basra.
The demonstrators set fire to a Turkish flag, shouting, “No, No, Turkey!” and “Throw the Turks out!” They threatened to boycott Turkish companies operating in Iraq if Ankara does not hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi within 15 days. They also distributed leaflets that read: “We give Turkey 15 days to meet our demands. If not, we will target Turkey’s interests, represented by Turkish companies.”
Turkey will not take a step to return al-Hashemi to authorities in Baghdad since there is no arrest warrant according to international law, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said following protests in front of the Turkish Consulate in Basra. “If there is unease with al-Hashemi, it is a problem of the government. Our country is a democratic state in this manner... a country where the democratic parliamentarian system works properly and freedom dominates,” Erdoğan told reports yesterday.
Turkey will host the Iraqi politician as a guest until he leaves the country, Erdoğan said. The attack on the Turkish consulate was conducted by “extremists” and “impertinent circles,” Erdoğan said, stressing that Turkey would not accept the incident.
He said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had discussed the incident with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who promised to arrest the offenders. “We asked them to follow up on the incident,” he added. “We strongly condemn and regret the shameful behavior against the Turkish flag during the demonstration, which was manipulated by some impertinent circles,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a May 19 statement, noting that it was also taking measures at the Iraqi Embassy in Ankara.
“The Iraqi ambassador has said the incidents, which were staged by a group of impertinent people, were unacceptable. The ambassador also said the Iraqi government was deeply sorry about what happened and conveyed formal regret over the incident,” the statement said.
‘Trade relations with North Iraq developing’
Ankara will continue to follow the measures taken by Iraq and other countries to ensure the security of Turkey’s diplomatic missions and that its national symbols are being respected, it said. Ties between Iraq and Turkey have worsened in recent months, with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry most recently summoning Ankara’s envoy to Baghdad on May 15 to complain about the conduct of two Turkish diplomats in Basra and Mosul. Al-Hashemi, who is currently residing in Turkey, fled Iraq after being charged with leading death squads.
As the tension soars, Enery Minister Taner Yıldız attended the first International Energy Arena conference yesterday in Arbil in northern Iraq. Turkey is expected to consume about 48 billion to 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2012 and Iraq will play a pivotal role in meeting Turkey’s natural gas needs, said Yıldız. With each passing day Turkey’s trade relations with northern Iraq are developing, Yıldız said. “In this regard, Turkish firms have made significant investments in northern Iraq. A growing economy like Turkey’s cannot have an antiquated energy sector,” said Yılıdız, adding that Turkey wanted to ensure that its natural gas and oil needs were met. He said that in the past two years, there had been a 25 percent increase in natural gas demand and this year he expected Turkey to consume between 48 billion and 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Beymen label has opened a luxury store in Arbil. The Beymen store was opened in a 50-50 partnership with the Elegan Grup, which invested in Arbil’s Divan Hotel. The Divan Hotel houses the Beymen store. Beymen General Manager Elif Çapçı said the store was opened with a $4 million investment.