Muqtada al-Sadr calls on Turkey to respect Iraqi territory

Turkey should stop violating Iraq’s sovereignty and carrying out airstrikes; instead, seek a peaceful resolution issue with “opposition” parties, outspoken Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said — goading the Turkish Ambassador into a retort on Friday.

“We … condemn the Turkish bombardment of Iraqi territory. If they [the bombings] are based on agreements, then they are empty and meaningless treaties,” Sadr said in a Twitter message posted on Thursday.

He also condemned “terrorist attacks” against Turkey, arguing Ankara should be permitted to protect all its borders, and Iraq shouldn’t become safe haven to launch attacks against its neighbors. Sadr “strongly” denounced “terrorist” operations against Turkey — not naming any certain group.

The Shiite politician emphasized the importance of the sovereignty of Iraq and resisting outside interference. He called on the Iraqi government to cancel all agreements which would undermine that.

The Sadr statement comes as clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have intensified in the northern mountains of the Kurdistan Region near the border with Turkey.

Turkey began its new Operation Claw on May 27 against the PKK, using helicopters to deploy forces further into Iraqi territory, long used by the PKK as a staging ground and headquarters for cross-border attacks.

Sadr is the head of the Sayirun alliance, the winner of Iraq’s parliamentary election last year. He has played a huge role in the formation of the current government. Although he, himself, chose to stay out of parliament and the government, his words carry much weight in Iraqi politics.

“At the same time, I call on the Turkish government to settle the matter of ‘opposition’ in a peaceful manner, based on systematic dialogue that preserves the safety and freedom of expression of both sides through logical and civilized methods,” Sadr posited.

Calling the PKK “opposition” as opposed to a “terrorist organization” goaded Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz into a response, disputing Sadr’s verbiage.

“We are speaking to those who claim to be friends of Turkey and await our friendship. There is no need to use dodgy expressions concerning the PKK, because the PKK is not of an opposition formation. The PKK is a terrorist organization,” Yildiz said in a tweet on Friday of the political party banned and designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish state.