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Iraq warns Turkey against violating airspace

18 July, 2012

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BAGHDAD: Iraq warned Turkey against violating its airspace and territory and said on Tuesday it planned to protest to the UN Security Council after its radars had repeatedly detected Turkish warplanes, in a deepening a rift with its neighbour.

Over the past four weeks, Turkish warplanes and attack helicopters have carried out repeated strikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq, according to Turkish military command, after clashes on the Iraqi side of the border.

The Turkish military says it is targeting hideouts of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants after some of the most intense battles this year of the separatist conflict. "The Iraqi government condemns these violations to Iraq's airspace and sovereignty and warns Turkey against any violations of Iraq’s airspace and territory," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in statement after a cabinet meeting.

Dabbagh said the cabinet asked the Foreign Ministry to protest to the Security Council over the violations. "Iraq will retain its right in taking all the measures to prevent these oversteps against its sovereignty," Dabbagh said. The Turkish Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has stepped up cross border attacks over the past year after abandoning a unilateral ceasefire. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the militants took up arms in 1984 as part of their fight for more Kurdish autonomy and rights.

Ankara has increasingly courted Iraqi Kurds as its relations with the Shi'ite-led central government in Baghdad have soured. Turkey is a major investment and trading partner for Iraq, especially for Kurdistan.

Turkish officials have been waging a war of words with Baghdad since December Iraqi Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, based on allegations that he ran death squads.

End.

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