Turkey and Iran summoned each other’s ambassadors on Sunday, escalating a row over Turkey’s presence in Iraq, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Turkish and Iranian state media.
Iran and Turkey are rivals in several parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, but both have carried out operations against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.
Earlier this month Turkey accused outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants of killing 12 Turks and an Iraqi who were being held hostage in northern Iraq,
The incident prompted Iranian Ambassador in Baghdad Iraj Masjedi to warn 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, intervening in Iraq militarily or having a military presence in Iraq,” Masjedi was quoted as saying in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yıldız quickly hit back, tweeting that Iran’s ambassador should be “the last person to lecture Turkey” about respecting Iraq’s borders.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials summoned Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Farazmand and told him Turkey expected Iran to be on its side in the “fight against terrorism,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Ministry officials also told the ambassador Turkey “strongly rejected” the envoy’s comments, insisting that Ankara always informed relevant parties including Baghdad of its plans to target militants.
Turkey’s ambassador in Tehran was also summoned on Sunday by the Iranian foreign ministry over comments made by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on the PKK militants’ presence in Iran, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
Soylu last weekend said there were “525 terrorists” in Iran.
Iranian officials emphasized his remarks were unacceptable and ran contrary to the two countries’ cooperation efforts, IRNA said.
The Iranians also insisted to Turkish Ambassador Derya Ors that Tehran was serious in its determination to fight terrorism and rejected Yıldız’s “unjustified” remarks.
Turkey has launched multiple air strikes targeting PKK bases in northern Iraq including in the areas of Kandil and Sinjar.
The PKK, which has fought a war against the Turkish state since 1984, is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the US and the EU.
Turkey bombed a mountainous region close to Sinjar last month, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned Ankara could launch military action to get rid of “terrorists” in the area.
But the Iranian ambassador to Iraq hit out at Turkey’s plans.
“What has Sinjar got to do with Turkey?” he said. “Iraqis themselves must resolve this issue.”