Iraq stops Turkey's Saudi-bound buses for lack of visa


Ali al-Moussawi, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister
Iraq has refused to allow 128 Turkish buses to cross into Saudi Arabia, saying the passengers onboard the vehicles did not hold visas issued by Baghdad.

"The government has decided to turn back 128 Turkish buses because they entered (Iraq) without following the procedures in force," AFP quoted Ali al-Moussawi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as saying on Thursday. 

The Passengers in questions, reportedly Hajj pilgrims, were traveling on visas issued by Kurdish regional authorities, not the central government. 

They arrived in Iraq via the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq and were supposed to enter Saudi Arabia through the Arar post in the southwest of the country, where the buses were stopped. 

"Neither Ankara nor the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad contacted Iraqi authorities about the arrival of such a large number" of people and "we don't really know if they are pilgrims," Moussawi explained, adding it was the first such incident.

Ties between Ankara and Baghdad have been strained in recent months, with Turkey refusing to extradite Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. 

Hashemi has been sentenced to death in absentia for being behind deadly terrorist attacks in Iraq. 

Baghdad was also seriously irked by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s August visit to Kirkuk without the central Iraqi government being informed in advance.

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