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Turkey and Iran summon envoys, escalating Iraq row

Moves follow Iran's representative to Baghdad criticising Ankara's involvement in Iraq after Kurdish attack on Turkish forces there
The coffin and image of Turkish Lt Ertug Guler are carried during the funeral of three Turkish military personnel killed in action in northern Iraq's Gara region, on 12 February 2021 (AFP)

Turkey and Iran summoned each other's ambassadors on Sunday following comments made by officials of both countries regarding Turkey's military presence in Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

The calls to the envoys signalled an escalation of a row between Iran and Turkey over the latter's role in Iraq, where both have carried out operations against Kurdish militants.

Earlier this month, Turkey accused Kurdish militants of killing 12 Turks and an Iraqi who were being held hostage in northern Iraq. 

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Commenting on the incident, Iranian envoy to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi warned that Turkish forces should not "pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil".

"We do not accept at all, be it Turkey or any other country, to intervene in Iraq militarily or advance or have a military presence in Iraq," Masjedi was quoted as saying in an interview broadcast on Saturday.

Turkey's Baghdad envoy, Fatih Yildiz, quickly responded on Twitter, saying that Iran's ambassador was "the last person to lecture Turkey" about respecting Iraq's borders.

Turkish foreign ministry officials summoned the Iranian ambassador in Ankara, Mohammad Farazmand, and told him Turkey expected Iran to be on its side in the "fight against terrorism," state news agency Anadolu said.

Mutual rejection

Ministry officials also told the ambassador that Ankara "strongly rejected" Masjedi's comments, insisting that it always informed relevant parties, including Baghdad, of its plans to target militants.

Iran also summoned Turkey's envoy to Tehran, Derya Ors, on Sunday over comments by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on the presence of Kurdish militants in Iran, Iran's state news agency IRNA reported.

Soylu last weekend said there were "525 terrorists" in Iran.

Iranian officials said Tehran rejected Yildiz's unacceptable comments, which ran contrary to the two countries' cooperation efforts, IRNA said.

The Iranians meanwhile told Ors that Tehran is committed to the fight against terrorism.

Turkey has launched multiple air strikes targeting the bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, including the areas of Kandil and Sinjar.

Turkey bombed a mountainous region close to Sinjar last month, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Ankara could launch military action to get rid of "terrorists" in the area.

But the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad criticised Turkey's plans and questioned its interest in Sinjar. 

"What has Sinjar got to do with Turkey?" he asked. "Iraqis themselves must resolve this issue."

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