ANAKARA, Turkey, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Turkish officials labeled delusional statements by Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki warning sectarian violence in Syria could engulf Turkey.
Maliki said the Syrian conflict, which has raised tensions with neighboring Turkey where thousands of refugees have fled, could spill outside its borders and draw in the NATO-allied Turkey. The remark came a day after the Turkish foreign minister issued a rebuke of rising sectarian violence in Iraq, Today's Zaman said Friday.
Majority Kurdish Turkey expressed concerns on behalf of the minority Kurd population in northern Iraq where conflicts between pro- and anti-government groups has been on an upswing.
"We always had concerns that, God forbid, this [conflict] may turn into a sectarian clash. Now our fears are slowly becoming real. This gives us reason to be concerned," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara.
Maliki responded, saying Turkey should be more concerned with the escalating tensions with Syria than internal matters in Iraq.
"The internal situation of Turkey is concerning and Turkey should be aware of this," Maliki said in a statement. "Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan should focus on internal issues, particularly [Turkey's] specter of sectarian and ethnic conflict, and should seek ways for a solution."
The two governments have had frosty relations of late due to a controversial oil agreement Turkey signed with provincial Kurdish leaders, bypassing the central government in Baghdad. The oil dispute comes as 12 Iraqi soldiers were killed in a clash with forces loyal to the Kurdish regional government.