A senior Turkish official has dismissed reports that Turkey sent anti-riot equipment to the Iraqi government to be used against those taking part in deadly protests that have shaken Iraq since last month.
In recent days, several reports published by Arabic-language news outlets quoted unnamed Iraqi government sources who claimed that Ankara had provided Baghdad with two planes of gear, including tear gas.
Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denied the reports and told Al Jazeera on Saturday they aimed to “undermine the high reputation Turkey has with Arabic-speaking people as a result of the policies it pursued in the region”.
He added: “We expressed on various occasions our concern over the violence happening between the protesters and the security forces in Iraq and we see the issue as Iraq’s internal matter.”
For a week in early October, ongoing grievances over poor governance, high unemployment and inadequate public services have prompted tens of thousands of Iraqis in the capital, Baghdad, and across the country’s south to take to the streets to protest against the country’s ruling elite.
The mass demonstrations, which continued late last month after a three-week hiatus, have been met with a harsh response by security forces, who have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against those protesting.
Last month, a government-appointed inquiry tasked with investigating the killings during the first wave of protests found that security forces had used excessive force.
Some 250 people have been killed since the turmoil began.
Aktay said Turkey does not support “either side in this crisis, but we would like both sides to refrain from violence, whether they are protesters or security forces”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday met Mohamed Ali Alhakim, his Iraqi counterpart, on the sidelines of a conference in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.
“[I] conveyed our wish that well-deserved peace and stability are ensured quickly in Iraq in line with the legitimate expectations of the Iraqi people,” Cavusoglu wrote in a Twitter post.