Iraq has asked Saudi Arabia to break its silence on the presence of Turkish troops on its soil as the kingdom’s hawkish foreign minister visits Baghdad to bring rocky relations out of a long freeze.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari on Saturday received his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir. This is the first such visit by a chief diplomat from the kingdom since 2003.
Turkey sent around 2,000 troops into northern Iraq in December 2015, triggering a diplomatic crisis and prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to warn that Ankara risked triggering a regional war.
According to a statement issued by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Ja’afari told Jubeir that Saudi Arabia must break its silence on the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq, the IRNA news agency reported from Baghdad.
“Ja’afari stressed the need for Riyadh’s efforts to encourage the Turks into leaving the Iraqi land, stating that despite Arab and international consensus on opposition to Turkish troops, they still remain in the Iraqi territory,” the report added.
On Saturday, Ja’afari told Jubeir that “Iraq’s policy is based on expanding relations with all countries of the world but it will not allow any meddling in its domestic affairs,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
The foreign minister also said Iraq “does not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries and has no interest in getting involved” in the lines drawn between some regional countries, possibly referring to Saudi Arabia’s rivalry with Iran.
An Iraqi government official said on Saturday that there was an opportunity for Baghdad to bring Tehran and Riyadh together.
“The whole region is heading towards compromise and Saudi Arabia sees Iraq as an important player to have on its side,” he said. “Iraq’s neutrality could make it a ground for Iranian-Saudi rapprochement.”