Turkey, Middle East

Turkey respects Iraq's territorial integrity: PM

Prime minister rebuffs criticism of KRG flag display during Masoud Barzani's official visit this week to Turkey

Turkey respects Iraq's territorial integrity: PM Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim delivers a speech during AK Party's group meeting on February 28, 2017

By Emin Avundukluoglu


Turkey’s prime minister Tuesday stressed that Ankara respects Iraq’s territorial integrity as well as its constitution.

At the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting, Binali Yildirim underlined how the Iraqi Kurdish administration or KRG has a semi-autonomous status under Iraq's constitution.

Yildirim’s remarks followed a two-day visit to Turkey by KRG President Masoud Barzani, during which he was received by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul and by Yildirim in Ankara. 

In honor of Barzani's visit, airports in Ankara and Istanbul flew the flag of Iraq's KRG for the first time.

Rebuffing criticisms of the flag display, Yildirim pointed that the KRG “has a parliament, prime minister, ministers, and its own flag, and they have been recognized around the world this way.”

Criticisms of the flag display as unprecedented are in bad faith, he added.

He added: "Turkey respects Iraq’s territorial integrity to the end, and also respects what Iraq’s constitution requires."

Yildirim said that Turkey carried out no new diplomatic practices during Barzani's visit.

Economic ties, fighting terrorism, and liberating Mosul from the Daesh terror group were the main topics in Barzani’s meetings with Erdogan and Yildirim.

‘We will stand by Azerbaijan’

Yildirim also offered condolences to Azerbaijan over five soldiers who were martyred in a border clash on Feb. 24, saying that Turkey shares the sorrow of its sister nation Azerbaijan. 

The incident nearly coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre of Feb. 25-26, 1992, in which Armenian forces killed 613 Azerbaijanis in Karabakh.

"The Karabakh region has been an open wound for many years. Azerbaijani territories have been occupied by Armenian gangs, and to date this issue has not been solved."

Yildirim said Turkey will continue to share the joys and sorrows of the Azerbaijani people. "I want to repeat here that we will stand by our sister nation Azerbaijan in their legitimate cause [in Karabakh]."

Clashes in the occupied Karabakh region, which pro-Armenian militia occupied in 1993, are nothing new.

In April 2016, more than 270 military personnel lost their lives in the worst-ever breach of a 1994 treaty between the sides, according to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry.

Three UN Security Council Resolutions (853, 874 and 884), and United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 19/13 and 57/298 refer to Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refers to the region as being occupied by Armenian forces.

Yildirim evaluated Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's official visit to Turkey last week. "We have agreed on concluding the free trade agreement between Pakistan and Turkey in this year."

Yildirim said that Pakistan was always a brother and a friend of Turkey, and would stay a brother of Turkey further. "We show a maximum effort to strengthen the relations between the two countries."

The prime minister's comments on Pakistan came after Nawaz Sharif's official visit to Turkey last week. 

During his visit in Turkey, Sharif met with Yildirim and Erdogan and also visited Turkish Parliament, witnessing the bomb damage caused during the country’s defeated 15 July 2016 coup.

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