Iraq summons Turkish envoy over Erdoğan interview

Iraq summons Turkish envoy over Erdoğan interview

BAGHDAD - Agence France-Presse
Iraq summons Turkish envoy over Erdoğan interview

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Iraq’s foreign ministry has summoned the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad over an interview in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described an Iraqi paramilitary organization as “terrorist,” officials said on April 20.

“The foreign ministry has decided to summon the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to hand him a formal protest note regarding recent remarks by the Turkish president on the Hashed al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilization],” ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal said in a statement.

Erdoğan spoke of Hashed al-Shaabi in an interview to the Doha-based Al Jazeera, whose Baghdad office was shut down last year. The group, which has played a key role in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is an umbrella of armed groups dominated by Shiite militia loyal to Iran. 

“In the fight against Daesh [ISIL] in Iraq there is something striking. It’s interesting, the Iraqi parliament says the Hashed al-Shaabi is not a terror group but what is interesting is who is behind this terror group,” Erdoğan said.

Fatih Yıldız started to serve as the Turkish ambassador to Iraq in January this year.

Turkey is keen to retain its influence in parts of northern Iraq and the Hashed al-Shaabi has ventured ever further north in recent months, raising concerns that Iran and Turkey could clash via their proxies.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been under intense pressure from his own camp over the continued presence in northern Iraq of Turkish military bases.

Meanwhile, Ankara wants tougher action against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has bases in northern Iraq.