Iraq calls meeting with Turkish envoy to clear the air

Iraq on Monday summoned Turkey’s ambassador to complain over comments from Turkish officials about a political crisis in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government, Iraq’s foreign ministry said.

The Iraqi complaint appeared to refer to comments by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who earlier this month warned Iraq’s neighbours not to stoke Sunni-Shi’ite tensions in Iraq, which he said could engulf the entire Islamic world, and said Iraq faced a “historical” responsibility.

Ties between Baghdad and Ankara have been strained by Turkey’s position on the Shi’ite-led government’s move to arrest Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, a measure that has triggered political turmoil that risk stirring more sectarian tensions.

Turkey, which is majority Sunni, has attempted to play a moderating role as rivals Shi’ite Iran and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia jockey for influence in the region.

Iraq’s Deputy Foreign Minister Muhammed Jawad al-Dooreki summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, urging his government to consider the “necessity of avoiding anything that might disturb” good relations.

“The Turkish ambassador gave assurances that Turkish officials’ statements were in good faith and he will inform his government in Ankara of the Iraqi position,” the foreign ministry statement said.

Since the 2003 invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Shi’ite majority have been in the ascendancy, and Maliki has moved the government closer to Iran. But the country also has strong trade ties with Turkey, a major investor.

Iraq’s crisis is stirring concerns the country may again slip into the kind of sectarian violence that killed thousands in 2006-2007 at the height of the conflict. Sunni Islamists and Shi’ite militias still carry out almost daily attacks.—Reuters

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