Iraq cancels Turkish minister's visit over deadly drone strike

Iraqi officials will also call in Ankara's ambassador after 'blatant Turkish drone attack'

In this photo provided by the Turkish Ministry of Defence on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Turkish troops in action against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. Turkey says it has airlifted troops for a cross-border ground operation against Turkey's Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. The Defense Ministry in Ankara says the airborne offensive in Iraq’s border region of Haftanin was launched on Wednesday following intense artillery fire into the area. The ministry says commando forces are being supported by warplanes, attack helicopters, artillery and armed and unarmed drones. (Turkish Ministry of Defence via AP)

Iraqi officials on Tuesday said they were cancelling a visit by Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and summoning the country's ambassador after a drone killed two high-ranking Iraqi officers.

The Turkish envoy will be given "a letter of protest with strong words", categorically rejecting aggression from Ankara, Iraq's Foreign Ministry said.

Turkey launched an offensive in mid-June in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organisation.

Iraqi officials called the strike a "blatant Turkish drone attack" in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, where Ankara has for weeks been raiding militant positions.

"It's very unfortunate that we have reached this stage and I believe the incident that killed two Iraqi high-ranking officers shows the lack of co-ordination between the two sides," an official from the Kurdistan Regional Government told The National.

The KRG previously urged Baghdad to take effective measures against the Turkish intrusion, the official said.

"But they didn't take this matter seriously, especially in protecting the Iraqi border areas and civilians," he said.

"The Kurdistan Region is part of Iraq and the government is constitutionally responsible to provide the necessary tools to protect the border and prevent any violation of its sovereignty."

The Arab League said it would support Iraq in taking action against Turkey's aggression.

"We condemn the killing of the two officers and consider it to be a flagrant violation of Iraq's sovereignty, the principles and charters of international law," the League said.

The UAE also voiced support for Baghdad in halting Ankara's aggression.

"We stand with Iraq in facing the ongoing Turkish violations of its sovereignty," Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Twitter.

"Our position has been consistent in rejecting regional interference.

"Relations between states must be based on full respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs."

Since Turkey's cross-border operations began in mid-June, two border guard battalion commanders and the driver of their vehicle were killed.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry, which had already summoned the Turkish ambassador twice over the military action on its soil, said the envoy would this time be given "a letter of protest with strong words".

The ministry also said Mr Akar would no longer be welcome on Thursday.

In late July, Baghdad said it would no longer issue visas at border crossings for Turkish citizens wanting to visit Iraq.

Iraq said this was because Turkey breached a 2009 deal that eased the visa process for citizens of the two states.

Discussions are continuing with Ankara on this matter, the Iraqi government said last month.