Turkey, Iraq condemn ‘shameful behavior’ against flag in Basra protest

Turkey, Iraq condemn ‘shameful behavior’ against flag in Basra protest

Riot police officers prevent protesters from entering the Turkish Consulate in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, on Saturday. (Photo: AP)

May 20, 2012, Sunday/ 13:34:00

Turkey and Iraq have condemned ripping up Turkish flag in an anti-Turkey protest in southern Iraqi city of Basra, who demanded Turkey to hand over Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tareq Hashemi.

A statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Sunday strongly condemned what it said “shameful behavior” against Turkish flag by a group of 200 people in front of Turkey’s Consulate in Basra.

"We strongly condemn and regret the shameful behavior against the Turkish flag during the demonstration, which was manipulated by some impertinent circles," the statement said.

Iraq last week summoned Ankara's ambassador in Baghdad to protest the behavior of two Turkish diplomats in the latest episode in a drawn-out public row between the neighbors.    

An official from Iraq's foreign ministry met Turkey's ambassador, Yunus Demirer, to complain about the Turkish diplomats in the cities of Basra and Mosul, a statement said.      

"Some activities conducted by the two Turkish General Consuls in Basra and Mosul ... are far from their Consular duties and obligations stated in the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations of 1963," the statement said, without elaborating.     

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki have traded tit-for-tat criticisms and accusations several times this year.     

Turkey said it contacted with Iraqi Embassy in Ankara in this regard and strongly warned Iraqi authorities, reminding that the host city is responsible for the security of diplomatic missions.

The statement said Iraq’s ambassador acknowledged that the Saturday’s incidents were “unaceeptable” and that the Iraqi government is saddened by the incident.

The ambassador also noted that Iraqi side officially expressed regret over the incidents in front of the Turkish consulate.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who is in Chicago to attend the NATO summit, met with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, who also strongly condemned the incident and promised to investigate the matter.  

Erdoğan last month accused Maliki of fanning tensions between Shi'ite Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Kurds in Iraq through "self-centred" behavior.      

Maliki quickly responded that Turkey was becoming a "hostile state" with a sectarian agenda, saying it was meddling in Iraqi affairs and trying to establish regional "hegemony".     

Iraq summoned Turkey's ambassador at the time and Turkey responded by summoning Iraq's envoy in Ankara.     

Analysts say mainly Sunni Turkey is worried that growing tensions in Iraq and violence in their mutual neighbor Syria may lead to a wider Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in the region.     

Erdoğan's government has recently forged close ties with Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, which is embroiled in a row with the Baghdad government over claims to the city of Kirkuk and the region's oil.     

Iraq is Turkey's second largest trading partner after Germany with trade reaching $12 billion last year, more than half of which was with the Kurdish region.

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