Stressing the need for a bilateral diplomatic solution, the top United Nations official for political affairs today called on Iraq and Turkey to exercise restraint and defuse tensions arising from the increased presence of Turkish forces in Iraq as part of the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) terrorist group.
“The [United Nations] Secretary-General hopes that both sides will work towards reaching a mutual agreement as soon as possible,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said in a briefing to the Security Council.
Mr. Feltman also urged all Member States involved in the fight against ISIL in Iraq to abide by the Charter of the United Nations and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.
Giving a background of today’s meeting, he noted that the United Nations Secretariat received a letter from the Iraqi Foreign Minister, dated 11 December, calling on the Council “to order Turkey to withdraw its forces immediately and to ensure, by all available means, that those forces retreat immediately and unconditionally to the internationally recognized border of the two countries”. The Iraqi Prime Minister reaffirmed that Iraq’s actions were not directed against Turkish people.
On 14 December, Turkey announced that some of its troops that had recently entered Iraq had begun leaving the Bashiqa area as part of a re-arrangement, Mr. Feltman said. According to the 16 December statement from the Turkish General Staff, two Iraqis were killed and four Turkish troops were wounded when the training base in Bashiqa was targeted by rocket fire from an area under ISIL control.
Ibrahim al-Eshaiker al-Jaafari, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said that on 3 December 2015, Turkish forces had penetrated into Iraqi territory. His Government rejected any counter-terrorism military movements without the knowledge of the Iraqi federal authorities and their approval. Furthermore, all diplomatic channels and bilateral negotiations with Turkey to withdraw their forces had been exhausted. The Council was being requested to assume its international legal responsibilities under the Charter and adopt a clear and explicit resolution that included two points.
Firstly, the resolution should condemn the Turkish occupation and illegal incursion which had breached the Charter’s provisions and the norms of international law, he continued. Secondly, the resolution should demand that Turkey should ensure its troops’ immediate and unconditional withdrawal to the recognized international border between the two countries. Further under the second point, the resolution should ensure the non-recurrence of such unilateral actions that would jeopardize international relations and exacerbate sectarian and nationalist tensions in the region and expose regional and international security to significant risks.
In handing over the duty to protect his country and its security, unity and territorial integrity to the Council, he also cited Article 51 of the Charter, emphasizing that Iraq retained its “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations”. That right extended to taking all necessary measures to end that hostile act which was an affront to good-neighbourly relations, and a threat to international peace and security.
Yaşar Halit Çevik (Turkey) emphasized that the two countries had unbreakable bonds, and that Iraq needed friends to help it defeat Da’esh without delay. Turkey was hosting almost 500,000 Iraqis and all their humanitarian needs were met by the Turkish Government. His country was also dispatching humanitarian assistance to Iraq and to the three camps it built in the Kurdistan Region for nearly 40,000 internally displaced persons.
He also pointed out that Turkey’s partners and Iraqi officials had been kept informed at various times of his country’s military training efforts, and, when concerns had been raised, that steps had been taken immediately to de-escalate the matter including, among others, the stopping of all further reinforcements in Bashiqa. He also noted that when the Iraqi Government was requested to stop the activities of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê)] in the Qandil region of Iraq, which posed significant risks to Turkey, it replied that it had no control over that part of the country.
It was, therefore, Turkey’s right to exercise self-defence against PKK and Da’esh, he continued. However, more so, a sustainable end to the tragedy in Iraq could only be brought by defeating Da’esh. The critical step was to raise the military capability of the Iraqi Army, including through training, and help the Iraqi Government re-establish its legal authority, he emphasized, adding that “Turkey has never had and will never have any interest in violating Iraq’s sovereignty.”
The meeting began at 6:45 p.m. and ended at 7:11 p.m.