Baghdad Asks Iraqis to Leave Syria, Warns Turkey against 'Violations' of Territoryإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The Iraqi government on Tuesday urged its citizens in strife-hit Syria to return home because of "increasing attacks" on them and warned Turkey against "any violations" of its territory and airspace.
"Iraqis are guests who live temporarily in Syria and the Iraqi government calls on them to return to the country," government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said.
He urged "Iraqis in Syria to return to the country after an increase in attacks against them."
The call comes a day after the bodies of two Iraqi men identified as journalists, who were stabbed and shot dead in Damascus, were handed over at a border post with Syria.
"Two Iraqi journalists, Ali Juburi al-Kaabi and Falah Taha, were killed by knives and bullets in Jaramana area," Colonel Abdelbasit al-Hilo, the Iraqi commander of Al-Waleed border post, told Agence France Presse, referring to a suburb of Damascus.
Al-Waleed border post lies at the southern edge of Iraq's border with Syria and is referred to as Tenef on the Syrian side.
Hilo said the two men carried identification documents from the Iraqi Journalists' Union, but it was not clear who they worked for.
The UNHCR said in late 2010 that about 1.5 million Iraqi refugees were in Syria but only around 150,000 were registered. The figure does not include those there for business or education.
Also on Tuesday, Iraq's government warned Ankara against "any violations" of its territory and airspace, and instructed the foreign ministry to register a complaint at the U.N. Security Council.
"We are warning Turkey against any violations or breakdowns of the airspace and land of Iraq," government spokesman Dabbagh said in an statement.
"The cabinet directed the foreign ministry to file a complaint in the Security Council."
Turkish fighter jets have on multiple occasions in past months bombed Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, targeting Kurdish rebels that have rear bases there. Turkey's military has also shelled what it says are rebel bases.
Dabbagh's remarks were the latest in a cooling of ties between Iraq and Turkey, with Baghdad also warning Ankara on Sunday to stop accepting "illegal" transfers of crude oil from the autonomous Kurdish region of north Iraq or risk damaging bilateral ties.
A Kurdish official said this month that Iraqi Kurdistan had begun sending oil produced in its three-province region out of Iraq to Turkey so that the crude could be refined and then brought back as oil products.
Ties between Iraq and Turkey, which had been improving, have cooled considerably since December, particularly over Turkey's refusal to extradite Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is currently on trial in absentia on charges he ran a death squad.
The extradition spat added to a deterioration of ties between the two countries, with Iraq summoning Ankara's envoy to Baghdad twice in a single month to complain of various incidents.