Iraq calls on Turkey to coordinate its strikes on Kurdish militants

Reuters , Sunday 13 Sep 2015

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari speaks during a joint news conference with Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz (not in picture ) in Baghdad January 18, 2015. (Photo:Reuters)

Iraq's foreign minister has called on Ankara to coordinate with Baghdad in its military campaign against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq following accusations that Turkish forces crossed the border into Iraq last week.

Iraq has been mostly silent about Turkish airstrikes against the Kurdish militants which began in July and have focused mainly on targets in the mountainous area of northern Iraq near the borders with Turkey and Iran.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari said on Saturday he had summoned the Turkish ambassador last week to object to what he called a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

A spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Jaafari told Reuters that Ankara has not coordinated with Iraq in the campaign, which Baghdad claims included an incursion into Iraq last week by Turkish special forces in pursuit of PKK militants.

"We are for the security of Turkey. Turkey has the right to defend itself," he said ahead of an Arab League conference in Cairo. "But there must be coordination on the ground with the Iraqi government and Iraqi armed forces."

Iraq does not control its northern border with Turkey, which is within the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Jaafari said Iraq would back operations if they were justified by conditions on the ground and if sufficient measures had been taken to avoid residential areas.

He also reprimanded Doha for hosting a conference earlier this month which Iraqis widely criticised for allegedly including attendees from Saddam Hussein's disbanded Baath party and Islamist hardliners wanted by Iraqi courts on terrorism charges.

He said the conference sent a message encouraging sectarianism and had undermined Iraq's relations with Qatar. "Sometimes political intervention is no less dangerous than military intervention," he said.

A spokesperson for Qatar's ministry of foreign affairs would not comment on the conference.

Iraqi officials have accused Qatar of funding Islamic State insurgents, which Doha denies. Some Gulf states have viewed Iraq as being too close to their main regional rival, Shi'ite power Iran.

Relations have improved since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took office last year. Qatar appointed an ambassador to Iraq for the first time since the embassy was closed 25 years ago, on the eve of the first Gulf war.

A rapprochement between the Sunni Muslim-ruled states of the Gulf and Iraq, which has a Shia majority, could help strengthen a regional alliance against Islamic State militants who have seized vast areas in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria. 

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