Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of weakness as tensions rose Wednesday after Ankara deployed tanks and artillery near Iraq.
Abadi had warned Ankara not to provoke a confrontation and said any invasion would see Iraq’s northern neighbour repelled after Turkey sent the 30-vehicle convoy to the southeastern district of Silopi on Tuesday.
The two countries traded barbs last month over Ankara’s military presence in Iraq’s north and its insistence that it would play a role in the offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, from the Islamic State (IS) group.
“If you have the strength, why did you surrender Mosul to terror organisations? If you are so strong, why has the PKK occupied your lands for years?
“You cannot even fight against a terror organisation, you are weak,” Cavusoglu added, quoted by the official news agency Anadolu.
The Turkish foreign minister was referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is waging an insurgency inside Turkey and has bases in northern Iraq.
Ankara claims its artillery hit IS positions in Iraq during the Mosul operation but Baghdad denies any Turkish involvement and has called for Turkish troops training fighters near Mosul to be withdrawn.
Iraqi forces fought their way into the northern city that has been held by IS since June 2014 in the third week of the operation.
Turkey also fears that the northern district of Sinjar could become another base for the PKK which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week he would not allow.
As the Turkish convoy made its way, Abadi said Iraq was “ready” for a confrontation with Ankara even though he insisted he did not want to go to war with Turkey.
Referring to Abadi’s comments, Cavusoglu said it was “not right to make flippant remarks”, adding that Iraq was trying to “play tough” with empty rhetoric.
Cavusoglu’s remarks were in stark contrast to those made during a visit to Doha on Tuesday where he said the Turkish troops’ presence in northern Iraq’s Bashiqa camp had created “unnecessary tension” between the two countries.