Turkey and Iraq are ready to launch a joint investigation into a recent deadly attack in northern Iraq’s Duhok province, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
The Iraqi government sought the meeting after the July 20 artillery attack that killed nine Iraqi tourists and injured 33 other people. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein claimed the government has “proof” that Turkish armed forces were responsible.
Turkey has denied it was behind the attack and said that the PKK, which has a strong presence in the region, is responsible for the deaths.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday that an attack on a mountain resort in Iraq's northern province of Duhok last week that killed nine people was carried out by terrorists and aimed at harming Turkey-Iraq ties.
Speaking to state broadcaster TRT Haber, Erdoğan said Turkey had informed its NATO allies, including the United States and Iraqi authorities, of its position on the attack. He added that he called on Iraq not to fall for the propaganda by the PKK.
At the start of the Security Council meeting, the U.N. special envoy for Iraq had said Turkey and Iraq were ready for a joint investigation into the artillery shelling at the Parkha resort in the Zakho district of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Speaking on the issue, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday said that provocations in northern Iraq are continuing and reminded that attacks on Turkey’s presence in the region have happened before.
“We have always warned Iraqi authorities on these harassments. Who has the responsibility to protect our missions? Iraq,” Çavuşoğlu said, speaking during a live interview on TV100.
“There are terrorist organizations in your country threatening both you and Turkey from there. They pose threats to our missions in Iraq. The responsibility to clear these terrorists lies on them,” he added, saying that Turkey offered to fight terrorists jointly.
“Unfortunately, terrorist organizations are highly active in Iraq and the Iraqi authorities cannot carry out an effective fight against them.”
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, emphasized in a conversation Monday “the importance of a transparent and thorough investigation: independent or jointly.”
The U.N. envoy said she understood “that Turkey is also ready to address the issue jointly with Iraq to determine exactly what happened.”
The foreign minister told journalists later that Iraq is also ready to have a joint investigation with Turkey, but he alleged that “they didn’t approach us” and “never sent us an official letter about having an investigation.”
Turkey’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Öncü Keçeli, countered that “we made it clear that Turkey is ready to take all the steps to unveil the truth,” stressing to the council that “our officials at many different levels have given the same message.”
Immediately after the attack, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Ankara was prepared to take all steps to determine who perpetrated the attack.
"We invite Iraqi government officials ... to cooperate in bringing the real perpetrators of this tragic incident into light," it underlined.
Keçeli said some Iraqi authorities were on the same page as Turkey and “wanted to find out the truth.” But other Iraqi officials, he said, “chose escalation instead of diplomacy and cooperation” and started a media “smear campaign” to drive a wedge between the Turkish and Iraqi people.
Turkey’s Keçeli countered that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq are breached by terrorist organizations, not by Turkey,” which he said has always supported Iraq’s sovereignty.
“As we speak, the flags of the PKK terrorist organization are raised in certain parts of northern Iraq, not the flags of the federal government,” he said.
Turkey estimates the PKK controls an area of “at least 10,000 square kilometers in Iraq,” he said. “Nearly 800 villages have been forcefully evacuated by the PKK and all these spots have become a safe haven for the terrorists.” In the first six months of this year, the PKK carried out 339 attacks against Turkey, he said.
“Iraq has so far proven to be either unable or unwilling to fight the terrorists,” and therefore, it cannot blame Turkey for exercising its right to self-defense, Keçeli said.
Hussein said Iraq's government is ready to work alongside the United Nations and concerned countries “to ensure that elements of the PKK leave Iraq because this destabilizes Iraq" and undermines security in the country.