Lavrov will address the Arab League on Sunday

ANKARA: An angry and grieving Iraq on Thursday buried nine holidaymakers – including a newlywed – killed in the artillery bombardment of a Kurdish hilltop village.

The government blamed neighboring Turkey, which denied its troops were responsible and instead blamed rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Germany has called for an urgent investigation.

In Baghdad, dozens of protesters demonstrated outside the Turkish visa office early Thursday, despite a heavy police presence.

Loudspeakers played patriotic songs as protesters chanted slogans demanding the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador, an AFP journalist reported.

“We want to burn down the embassy. The ambassador must be expelled,” said protester Ali Yassin, 53.

Similar protests took place on Wednesday evening in the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala and in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

The German Foreign Ministry said “the circumstances of the attack and those responsible” must be urgently investigated.

“The German government attaches great importance to respect for the sovereignty of the Iraqi state and international law,” he said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has denied responsibility for the bombing, saying these “types of attacks” were carried out by “terrorist organisations”.

Dr. Salim Cevik, associate at the Center for Applied Turkish Studies at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, said Turkey’s military operations in Iraq were a source of discontent for local and regional actors.

“Discontent grew over the years as Turkish operations penetrated further south into Iraqi territory and the Turkish military presence became more permanent. For most Iraqi actors and the government in Baghdad, these operations are flagrant violations of the territorial integrity of Iraq while Tehran considers Turkey’s military presence as an encroachment on its sphere of influence. he told Arab News.

“However, Baghdad is too weak to confront Turkey and Iran is avoiding an open confrontation with Turkey. Yet pro-Iranian militias have sporadically targeted Turkish military bases in northern Iraq in an attempt to limit the Turkish advance. In contrast, the Kurdistan Regional Government or the KRG government passively supports Turkey’s military operations and also provides logistical support,” Cevik said.

According to Cevik, the bombardment gave these disgruntled groups an opportunity to push back against Turkey.

“It could be a Turkish bombardment gone wrong or a false flag operation carried out by other actors (the PKK or pro-Iranian militias). I have no information to decide at this stage, but unless Turkey provides evidence to the contrary, public opinion seems to accept this as a Turkish attack. Moreover, since Turkey is considered the aggressor on Iraqi territory, the burden of proof falls on it. Unless Turkey proves the bombing was not a Turkish attack, the Iraqi public, government and local actors will increase pressure on Turkey to end its military presence in Iraq,” he said. -he declares.

Cevik said this bombardment and the subsequent reaction of Iraqi groups must also be understood in the context of a wider Iranian-Turkish rivalry in the region.

“In recent years, Iran and Turkey have increasingly diverged on their regional policies, particularly on Iraq, Syria and the Caucasus. As Turkey mends its fences with Iran’s regional enemies – Saudi Arabia and Israel – it finds itself on a collision course with Iran. As Iran will continue to avoid direct confrontation with Turkey in Iraq, it will increase pressure on Turkey through its proxy militias,” he said.

According to Cevik, this attack will also give Iran the opportunity to increase diplomatic pressure and mobilize Iraqi public opinion against Turkey.

“Still, I don’t expect Turkey to withdraw from Iraq permanently, but Turkey may temporarily reduce its military activities in Iraq to avoid further criticism,” he said.

Baghdad recalled its charge d’affaires from Ankara and summoned the Turkish envoy to Iraq.

As tensions soar between Turkey and Iraq over the strike on Iraqi Kurdistan, Samuel Ramani, a research associate at the UK’s Royal United Services Institute, thinks sovereignty violations are a sensitive issue for Iraq and that concerns about Turkey’s conduct have increased in recent months, then the summoning of the ambassador to Ankara is an inevitable progression.

“Turkey has long-term strategic ambitions in Iraq, which include the $50 billion trade target discussed last year, so I suspect this attack, like previous ones, will only be a temporary source of disruption. cooperation between Ankara and Baghdad,” he told Arab News. .

Mehmet Alaca, a researcher at the Ankara-based think tank ORSAM, said unease among pro-Iranian groups in Iraq had fueled unease over Turkey’s military presence in the country for some time.

“With the massive death of civilians, the ability of Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi and the KRG to manage events has diminished. In this regard, we have reached a new threshold in terms of the future of Ankara’s presence in Iraq. It will probably be more and more questioned from now on,” he told Arab News.

According to Alaca, anger over Turkey’s military operations, which has been rising in Iraqi society recently, peaked with the latest incident, and the government in Baghdad will try to appease the public.

“There have been civilian deaths before, but they were mostly citizens of Kurdistan. This time, the deaths of Iraqi Arabs will fly under the radar of Shiite politicians. Therefore, this issue will remain on the agenda for quite a long time,” he said.

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