Baghdad summons Turkey's ambassador over remarks criticising Iran-backed militia

Baghdad summons Turkey's ambassador over remarks criticising Iran-backed militia
Iraq's foreign ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador over an interview in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces as a "terrorist" organisation, officials said on Thursday.
2 min read
21 April, 2017
Baghdad summoned the Turkey's ambassador over Erdogan's remarks [Getty]

Iraq's foreign ministry summoned he Turkish ambassador to Baghdad over an interview in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the Iraqi paramilitary organisation taking part in the battle against the Islamic State group as "terrorist", officials said on Thursday.

Fateh Yildiz, who began serving as the Turkish ambassador to Iraq in January this year, was summoned as a form of protest, the ministry said.

"The foreign ministry has decided to summon the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to hand him a formal protest note regarding recent remarks by the Turkish president on the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces)," ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal said in a statement.

In an interview broadcast on al-Jazeera channel, whose Baghdad office was shut down last year, Erdogan spoke of the Hashd al-Shaabi, which has played a key role in the fight against the Islamic State group.

"In the fight against Daesh (IS) in Iraq there is something striking. It's interesting, the Iraqi parliament says the Hashed al-Shaabi is not a terror group but what is interesting is who is behind this terror group," Erdogan said.

The Hashed al-Shaabi is an umbrella of armed groups dominated by Shia fighters that has been pivotal in the fight against IS, although it has faced allegations of abuse from human rights group.

Turkey is keen to retain its influence in parts of northern Iraq and the Hashed al-Shaabi has ventured ever further north in recent months, raising concerns that Iran, who heavily supports the Iraqi paramilitary group, and Turkey could clash via their proxies.

Erdogan is a reviled figure among much of Iraq's Shia parties, who accuse him of having directly supported the emergence of IS and of continuing to abet the militants' operations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been under intense pressure from his own camp over the continued presence in northern Iraq of Turkish military bases.

For its part, Ankara wants tougher action against the Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist organisation and which has bases in northern Iraq.