Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed the Iraqi prime minister's remarks about an alleged "invasion", a day after Turkish tanks were deployed to Turkey’s southeastern border with Iraq.
“There is no stronger supporter [of Iraq] than Turkey, which wants Iraq to protect its territorial integrity and its independence. Iraq’s security and stability are as important as ours,” Cavusoglu told reporters in the resort city of Antalya Wednesday.
He said while Turkey backs Iraq’s independence and stability, he said he would not comment “on other countries’ provocations”.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said Iraq does not want war or confrontation with Turkey.
“If there is a confrontation, the Turks will pay an exorbitant price,” al-Abadi said, adding that wars between neighboring countries can bring destruction to both, but that Iraq would be ready for any confrontation with Turkey.
“We do not [want] war with Turkey, we do not want a confrontation with Turkey.
“Any invasion of Iraq would lead to the dismantling of Turkey,” the Iraqi premier said, adding that Iraq had welcomed Turkish forces inside the country to train fighters and give logistical support, not as a fighting force.
Cavusoglu questioned Iraq’s strength to fight terrorism.
“If you [Iraq] have the power, why did you leave Mosul to terrorist organizations in the first place?” the foreign minister asked. “Why has the PKK been invading your lands for years?”
He criticized the Iraqi premier for "not being able to cope with terrorist organizations, while trying to bully and being rhetorical."
He said Turkish officials had earlier declared Turkey would take measures in the interest of its security. “We are taking these measures now," he added.
The Turkish army on Tuesday dispatched tanks to the southeastern Sirnak province's Silopi district near the border with Iraq.
About the movement of tanks, Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters in Ankara on Tuesday: "We are right now engaged in a serious fight against terrorist groups, both inside Turkey and just outside our border. This dispatch is a part of preparation for those threats."
'Nobody can exclude Turkey from Iraqi Turkmens' interests’
Cavusoglu said Turkey supports the operation to liberate Mosul from Daesh because that terrorist group carries out attacks against Turkey and "threatens everyone."
"Now there is a threat to our Turkmen brothers. Nobody can exclude Turkey from Iraqi Turkmens’ interests," he said. "Our brothers' problem there is our problem. We try to meet the needs of our brothers."
"We see threats to them as if they are ours," he added.
Cavusoglu also stressed that dispatching tanks along Turkey's border with Iraq is a measure taken in line with the possibility of an attack launched from Mosul to Turkey.
"You cannot think our military measures are ill-intentioned," Cavusoglu said. "This is not against the country of Iraq or its government."
Turkish Airlines Open tournament
The foreign minister also said golf has gained popularity in Turkey since the Turkish Airlines Open tournaments began.
"This is a beautiful sport, it is not anti-environmental, and it is not at all boring," said Cavusoglu.
The four-day Turkish Airlines Open Golf Tournament starts at Antalya’s Carya Golf Club starting Thursday. The tournament is considered one of the three leading tournaments in Europe, featuring world-famous golfers such as Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, and Victor Dubuisson.
Asked about some golfers bowing out of the tournament due to “security concerns,” Cavusoglu said terror attacks "can happen anywhere in the world."
"Several days ago, the U.S. Consul in Istanbul suggested the families of its personnel leave Turkey," he said. "I would like to remind you that on that very same day, there were killings in Chicago, and 12 people died."
He said a total of 650 people have been killed in Chicago since last year.
"I mean Istanbul is no less safe than any state in the U.S." he said. "Unfortunately, there are terror attacks and riots taking place in various states in the United States."
Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey has "never" called on its personnel in the U.S. to send their families back home, calling the U.S. decision "wrong."
"There was a terror attack in France, we did not call our personnel's families back," he said. "There can be travel warnings, saying to be careful."
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