Iraq says death of Turkish diplomat will not affect relations with Ankara

Both states vow to find those behind attack on restaurant in the Kurdish city of Erbil

Kurdish security members are seen near a restaurant where Turkish diplomats and Turkish consulate employee were killed in Erbil, Iraq July 17, 2019.  REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

The death of a senior Turkish diplomat in Iraq in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, will not affect relations between Baghdad and Ankara, Iraq’s Foreign Minister said on Thursday.

Gunmen stormed a restaurant in the centre of Erbil on Wednesday afternoon killing the Turkish deputy consul and an Iraqi civilian, and wounding another Iraqi.

“The criminal act will not affect the extent and nature of the relations between Baghdad and Ankara, but will increase the two sides’ determination to support the relations to serve the two friendly peoples,” Mohamad Al Hakim told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a call.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Kurdish security service and Iraq's Foreign Ministry condemned the attack.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it would take strong action against the perpetrators.

Mr Cavusoglu said Ankara was “collaborating with the Iraqi authorities to find the perpetrators, to find out the motive and to make sure all details are unveiled”.

A Turkish delegation could be sent to Erbil, he said.

The attacks rocked the quiet Kurdish city, which had escaped the violence that followed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and rise of ISIS in surrounding areas.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The US State Department condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms".

"There can be no justification for such acts of wanton violence," the department said.

The attack followed an announcement  by Ankara of a new military operation against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Air strikes there on Wednesday killed at least seven members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Mr Cavusoglu said it was unclear whether the group had played a part in the attack, because Iraqis at the restaurant were also hit.

“We are continuing our contacts so that details concerning the issue of the apprehension of the assailants, and what is behind the attack, are brought to light,” he said.

A representative for the PKK denied the group was involved in Wednesday's shooting.

The PKK is deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU. It has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, seeking autonomy for about 15 million Kurds.