Turkey, Iran summon ambassadors amid row over Iraq

(Re-leads with Iran's summoning of Turkish envoy)

Turkey and Iran on Sunday summoned each other's ambassadors following an escalating row over Turkey's presence in neighbouring Iraq.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Iran’s Ambassador to Ankara Muhammed Ferazmend, state-run Anadolu Agency reported, following Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi’s comments on Turkish presence in northern Iraq.

Iran responded by summoning Turkish ambassador to Tehran, Derya Örs, to the foreign ministry, Iranian news agency ISNA reported.

Mashed told Iraqi Kurdish outlet Rudaw on Saturday that Turkey should withdraw troops from Iraqi soil and respect borders, and that Tehran was strongly opposed to Turkish interventions in northern Iraq, as well as any other foreign presence in the country.

“We reject military intervention in Iraq and Turkish forces should not pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil,” Masjedi said, calling for Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish forces to handle security in their region.

Iran “does not accept at all” any intervention or foreign military presence in Iraq, Masjedi said, “and therefore we believe Turks must return to their international position.”

Ankara rejects Masjedi’s allegations in the strongest terms, and that Turkey’s operations are against elements targeting Iraq’s stability, security and sovereignty, the Turkish ministry told Ferazmend.

According to the Turkish Ministry, Iran should stand by Turkey in its fight against terrorism.

Turkey has conducted intense aerial and ground incursions on northern Iraq since the summer of 2020, under Operations Claw Eagle and Claw Tiger, against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its bases in the region.

In 2018, Turkey’s then-prime minister Binali Yıldırım said Turkey had set up 11 military bases and doubled the number of its troops in northern Iraq, reported Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey’s latest incursion started on Feb. 10 and ended four days later, when 13 people held by the PKK were killed, after which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to expand operations against the PKK.

Turkish authorities have set their sights on the PKK’s main headquarters in Qandil, and in Iraq’s Sinjar region where PKK gained a foothold after the 2014 Islamic State (ISIS) launched a genocidal campaign against the local Yazidi population.  Sinjar currently has its own armed forces, which the PKK helped establish in 2014.

PKK has small base camps scattered in the mountainous areas of Turkey’s Kurdish-majority east and southeast, but the main encampment is in Iraq’s Qandil mountains.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), wants to clear Sinjar of PKK and all other non-official forces and set up new bases against the PKK, according to al Jazeera. The KDP holds PKK responsible for civilians who died in Turkish military operations, and KDP leader Masoud Barzani has called on PKK to leave the region to prevent further escalation with Turkey in November.

“What has Sinjar got to do with Turkey?” said Masjedi, adding that the matter “has no bearing on Turkey to threaten or make a decision on this. Therefore, we reject any threat, be it from Turkey or any other side.”

Iran supports “any decision and agreement” that contributes to the security of Sinjar, whose people “have suffered a lot, in particular from (ISIS)”, the ambassador said.

Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Fatih Yıldız responded to the interview in a tweet, saying:

“I believe the Iranian ambassador should be the last person to lecture Turkey on respecting Iraq’s borders. We will respond appropriately.”