Rudaw

Shiite cleric Sadr calls on Turkey to respect Iraqi territory

Turkey should stop violating Iraq’s sovereignty and carrying out airstrikes; instead, seek a peaceful resolution issue with “opposition” parties, outspoken Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said — goading the Turkish Ambassador into a retort on Friday.

“We … condemn the Turkish bombardment of Iraqi territory. If they [the bombings] are based on agreements, then they are empty and meaningless treaties,” Sadr said in a Twitter message posted on Thursday.

He also condemned “terrorist attacks” against Turkey, arguing Ankara should be permitted to protect all its borders, and Iraq shouldn’t become safe haven to launch attacks against its neighbors. Sadr “strongly” denounced “terrorist” operations against Turkey — not naming any certain group.

The Shiite politician emphasized the importance of the sovereignty of Iraq and resisting outside interference. He called on the Iraqi government to cancel all agreements which would undermine that.

The Sadr statement comes as clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have intensified in the northern mountains of the Kurdistan Region near the border with Turkey.

Turkey began its new Operation Claw on May 27 against the PKK, using helicopters to deploy forces further into Iraqi territory, long used by the PKK as a staging ground and headquarters for cross-border attacks.

Sadr is the head of the Sayirun alliance, the winner of Iraq’s parliamentary election last year. He has played a huge role in the formation of the current government. Although he, himself, chose to stay out of parliament and the government, his words carry much weight in Iraqi politics.

“At the same time, I call on the Turkish government to settle the matter of ‘opposition’ in a peaceful manner, based on systematic dialogue that preserves the safety and freedom of expression of both sides through logical and civilized methods,” Sadr posited.

Calling the PKK “opposition” as opposed to a “terrorist organization” goaded Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz into a response, disputing Sadr’s verbiage.

“We are speaking to those who claim to be friends of Turkey and await our friendship. There is no need to use dodgy expressions concerning the PKK, because the PKK is not of an opposition formation. The PKK is a terrorist organization,” Yildiz said in a tweet on Friday of the political party banned and designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish state.

Sadr’s position is consistent with the government of Iraq. Baghdad repeatedly has asked Turkey to stop its airstrikes, but it has also said it won’t permit Iraq to be a launching pad for attacks against neighbors by armed groups. However, Iraq’s borders are porous and many towns and villages span multiple countries.

In the past few years, primarily rural areas were targeted. However, the areas hit in the most recent attacks lie just outside urban centers, raising the risk for civilians who worry of being caught in crossfire.

This week, Turkey targeted the more-populated Amedi area about 70 kilometers north of the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil city. The strikes signal a possible dangerous escalation.

In return, PKK has staged daily attacks against Turkish security forces — both in Iraqi and Turkish territory.

Up to 40,000 people have died in the conflict since 1984. At least 4,397 people have been killed since the short-lived peace process collapsed in 2015, according to the International Crisis Group.

The PKK argues that it is not a terrorist organization and has fought a nearly four-decade-long struggle against the Turkish state, striving for greater political, cultural, and minority rights.

Iraqi President Barham Salih in a visit to Turkey on May 29 stressed that Iraq’s sovereignty needs to be preserved, rejecting Turkey’s unilateral military actions. Source