Iraq sovereignty, red line that must not be crossed: Foreign minister

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has condemned the recent deployment of Turkish troops to northern Iraq, stressing that the sovereignty of Iraq is “a red line that must not be crossed.”

Speaking at a press conference in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Sunday, Jaafari underlined his country’s keenness to maintain good relations with Turkey, and to resolve the current diplomatic row between Baghdad and Ankara through diplomatic means.

He, however, warned that other means could be employed if the violation of Iraq’s sovereignty continues and Turkey does not withdraw the recently-deployed soldiers.

Jaafari said that Iraq had submitted a formal complaint to the UN Security Council (UNSC) regarding Turkey’s military moves in northern Iraq.

“We have also contacted UNSC members to explain our situation and have called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League,” he said.

Also on Sunday, the three branches of the Iraqi government stressed that the Arab country has a right to resort to all legitimate means to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty against neighboring Turkey.

Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri and the senior leaders of parties and political factions, in a joint statement, rejected silence on the Turkish violation and expressed support for the Iraqi army and security forces in their efforts to defend the country against any foreign aggression.

Tensions have been running high between Baghdad and Ankara since December 4, when Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of the northern city of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh Province.

Over the past few days, thousands of Iraqi protesters have staged demonstrations across the country to denounce the Turkish deployment of military forces. On December 11, Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also called on the government to show “no tolerance” toward any party that violates the country’s sovereignty.

No country should “send its soldiers to the territory of another state under the pretext of supporting it in fighting terrorism without the conclusion of an agreement… between the governments of the two countries,” read the statement.

Ankara claims that its troops have been deployed to northern Iraq to train Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, and that the move was in line with previous agreements with Baghdad. Despite the fact that the Iraqi government denies any such deal, Turkey has refused to pull the forces out of Iraq.

 

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