Iraq summons Turkish diplomat to slam military base visit by minister
Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned Turkey's chargé d’affairs to Baghdad to express its strong resentment at a visit by the Turkish defence minister to a military base in the north of the country.
Senior undersecretary Nizar Al-Khairalla handed the diplomat a formal note of protest, complaining that Turkey was breaking international law by infringing on Iraq’s territorial integrity, the ministry said on Monday.
“The Iraqi government expressed its strong resentment and condemnation of the presence of Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar in Iraqi territory and meeting with Turkish forces that are illegally present there without coordination or prior approval by the relevant authorities in Iraq,” the ministry said.
Akar visited Turkish troops based in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq on Saturday, meeting with commanders leading ongoing operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey has established military bases and outposts in the region to battle the PKK, which has battled for Kurdish autonomy from Turkey for four decades and is recognised as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
Iraq also condemned a statement by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu about plans to establish a permanent military base in northern Iraq.
“The Iraqi government categorically rejects the continuing violations of Iraqi sovereignty and sanctity of its lands and airspace by the Turkish military forces, and that continuing with such an approach is not consistent with friendly relations, good neighbourliness, and standing international laws and norms.”
During the visit to the military base, Akar handed over a Turkish flag to troops and congratulated them for “neutralising” 44 PKK members during operations in the area, the defence ministry said in a statement on Sunday. The military’s chief of staff Yaşar Güler and land forces commander Ümit Dündar accompanied Akar on the visit.
Turkey stepped up military operations in the region late last month. Intense clashes have terrified villagers and forced families to flee their homes, local Kurdish officials told the Rudaw news website in an article published on Monday.