No evidence Turkey wants to fight ISIS: Iraq PM

As the Middle East grapples to contain the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State, the prime minister of Iraq has cast doubt on neighboring Turkey's willingness to combat the problem.

Haider Al-Abadi, who has led Iraq since 2014, told CNBC on Thursday from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that Turkey viewed the Kurdish population within its border as a greater problem than the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or Daesh.)

"The Turks are telling us otherwise, (that) they're eager to fight Daesh. But I'm telling them frankly, I'm not seeing evidence of that. I hope to see more evidence of that," Al-Abadi said.

"I think they have to shift their priority from considering the Kurds as their problem, to Daesh as their major problem. I think that the bombing of some targets inside Turkey by Daesh, that's an alarm to them. They must take it seriously," he later added.

Haider Al-Abadi on set in Davos, Switzerland with Hadley Gamble.
Haider Al-Abadi on set in Davos, Switzerland with Hadley Gamble.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in Baghdad last week that killed at least 50 people.

Istanbul also suffered a suicide bombing this month, which Turkish authorities blamed on the Islamic State. Turkey is also struggling to contain Kurdish insurgents and a massive influx of refugees from the conflict in Syria.

Al-Abadi told CNBC that Turkey had extended its fight against the PKK, an armed group calling for an independent state within Turkey, into Iraq and hoped to do so into Syria as well.

However, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted on Wednesday that Turkish troops in Iraq were there purely to combat ISIS, according to Reuters.

Nonetheless, the Iraqi prime minister accused Turkey of seeking to re-establish its once-mighty empire that spread from Europe to North Africa and Iraq.

"I think Turkey is looking to go back to the Ottoman Empire thing, I don't think there's a place in the region for that. We have to keep a very good relationship with our neighbor, Turkey, we've been working very hard to keep that good relationship, and as the prime minister of Iraq, I'm very keen to improve our good relationship, which we have done, but of course the extension of the crossing of Turkish military units into Iraq is not helpful at all," Al-Abadi said.


Iraq-Saudi feud impedes ISIS fight

The escalation in tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are another impediment to tackling ISIS, he added.

"It's polarising the whole area between sectarianism and other regional conflict, which really doesn't help now when we're fighting this enemy, Daesh," Al-Abadi said.

"Daesh, I have to alarm everybody, is very dangerous. Although it is on the defeat at the moment, they have a huge capability of recruiting young people and so I think there is no country in the world that doesn't have their citizens fighting either in Syria or Iraq. This is a very dangerous organisation."

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