Iraq PM warns Turkey on territory violations
Iraqi PM al -Maliki. REUTERS photoThe Iraqi government yesterday warned Turkey against making “any violations” of its territory or airspace, while urging its citizens in Syria to return home because of “increasing attacks” against them.
The Iraqi government has instructed the Foreign Ministry to register a complaint at the U.N. Security Council.
“We are warning Turkey against any violations or breakdowns of the airspace and land of Iraq,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement. “The Cabinet has directed the Foreign Ministry to file a complaint with the Security Council.”
Iraq had not delivered any complaint against Turkey in either Ankara or Baghdad by late yesterday, Turkish diplomatic sources told Hürriyet Daily News. In recent months Turkish jets have bombed northern Iraq, targeting militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Al-Dabbagh’s remarks were the latest in a cooling of ties between Iraq and Turkey, with Baghdad also warning Ankara last weekend to stop accepting “illegal” transfers of crude oil from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) or risk damaging bilateral ties.
The statement followed al-Maliki’s remarks earlier in the day in which he issued a warning to his neighbors for what he said are “frequent violations of Iraqi airspace,” adding that his administration will not remain silent in the face of these violations.
Al-Dabbagh’s statements also came after three Turkish passenger planes were stranded at Arbil International Airport due to a technical failure in the country’s radar system. Two Turkish Airlines (THY) planes and a Pegasus Airlines flight were grounded at Arbil’s airport for eight hours as they waited for permission to take off.
Ties between Iraq and Turkey, which had been improving, have cooled considerably since December, particularly over Turkey’s refusal to extradite Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is currently on trial in absentia on charges he ran a death squad. Al-Hashemi is residing in Istanbul. The extradition spat added to a deterioration of ties between the two countries, with Iraq summoning Ankara’s ambassador to Baghdad twice in a single month to complain about various incidents.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has urged all of its citizens living in Syria to return home immediately to escape the escalating civil war there.
Al-Dabbagh said Baghdad called on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the opposition forces seeking to overthrow him to resist harming Iraqis who may be caught in the crossfire.
“They are not part of the conflict going on in Syria now,” al-Dabbagh said in a statement. He cited a “rise in killings and assaults on Iraqis residing in Syria.” The U.N. estimated there were 1 million Iraqi refugees in Syria and 3,000 more seeking asylum as of January.
The Iraqi government will help Iraqis return from Syria, al-Dabbagh said, although he did not explain how. Thousands of Iraqis fled to Syria to escape widespread sectarian fighting during the worst of the violence in their homeland between 2005 and 2007. Now, the traffic is heading the other way, with Iraqis and Syrian refugees heading east, away from the conflict the International Red Cross just days ago deemed a civil war.