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Irbil’s Attack to Increase Tension Between Washington, Ankara

Irbil’s Attack to Increase Tension Between Washington, Ankara

Thursday, 18 July, 2019 - 06:45
Kurdish security members gather near a restaurant where a gunman opened fire in Irbil, Iraq, July 17, 2019.
Irbil, Ankara, Washington - Ihssan Aziz, Saeed Abdulrazek, Elie Youssef
Western diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that the assassination of a Turkish diplomat by a gunman at a restaurant in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, would increase tension between the Washington and Ankara ahead of meetings expected in Turkey to discuss the safe zone in east Syria.

A source at the Irbil police revealed that the Turkish diplomat was killed with two others when a gunman opened fire on a group of consulate workers at a restaurant in Irbil, adding that the attacker fled the scene.

The Turkish Anadolu agency said the attacker -- in plain clothes and carrying two guns – was alone when he targeted the Turkish diplomats.

Turkey would provide the “necessary response” to the attack at a casual dining restaurant, which left one other civilian dead, said Ibrahim Kalin, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official spokesman.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

However, Iraqi experts started to point fingers at the PKK in retaliation for the killing of two party members by Turkish airstrikes.

Diyar Daneer, a spokesman for the Peoples’ Protection Units, the armed wing for the PKK, said in a statement: “The PKK has nothing to do with the attack on Turkish diplomats among them the deputy of the Turkish consulate in Irbil, and the PKK has no information about this attack.”

In a related development, the White House announced on Wednesday that it has removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program and that Ankara will lose its production work on the jet by March 2020.

“Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems," the White House statement said, adding that the F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities."

The attack in Irbil is considered the first since the establishment of the Kurdistan Region in 1992. It came ahead of talks between the US and Turkey over eastern Syria, which is connected to Turkey’s southern border and is controlled by Kurdish-dominated Syrian forces.

Earlier, discussions over the safe zone have paused after the two sides disagreed on its depth, how it would be patrolled and which groups should be allowed to stay in the area.

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