Baghdad, Ankara in war of words over Turkish troops
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has renewed the call for the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from his country, warning that Ankara’s military adventurism could trigger another war in the Middle East region.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital Baghdad on Tuesday evening, Abadi expressed serious concern over the deployment of Turkish soldiers to Iraqi soil.
“We do not want to enter into a military confrontation with Turkey,” the Iraqi prime minister said, arguing that “the behavior of the Turkish leadership is not acceptable by any standard.”
He said every world leader he has met supports the Baghdad government’s position in this regard.
“The Turkish insistence on [its] presence inside Iraqi territories has no justification. Daesh is closer to the Turkish border in Syria than from Mosul,” Abadi noted.
He further described the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the main Daesh stronghold in the country, as imminent, stressing that Baghdad has drawn up plans to “ensure Turkish troops will not exploit the power vacuum after victory over Daesh in Mosul.”
Abadi’s remarks came on the same day that Iraqi parliament rejected the Turkish legislature’s October 1 decision to extend the mandate of Turkish forces in northern Iraq for one more year.
“We reject the decision of the Turkish parliament which permits incursion of Turkish troops into Iraqi territories. The Iraqi government must consider Turkish troops as hostile occupying forces,” the Iraqi parliament said in a statement.
The parliament further urged the Baghdad government to take all legal and diplomatic measures to safeguard Iraq’s sovereignty, and review trade and economic ties with Ankara.
The Iraqi lawmakers also condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent comments that Ankara is willing to join the upcoming offensive to liberate Mosul.
“The Iraqi Council of Representatives (Parliament) rejects and condemns Erdogan’s statements, and we find such remarks as divisive for the Iraqi people,” the parliament said.
In another development on Wednesday, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Faruk Kaymakci over the Turkish parliament’s extension by another year a mandate allowing cross-border military incursions into Iraq, and Ankara’s demand to play a role in the Mosul battle.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also summoned Iraq’s Ambassador to Ankara Hisham Ali Akbar Ibrahim Alawi in a tit-for-tat move, voicing Ankara’s protest over the Iraqi parliament’s rejection of a one-year extension of the mandate for Turkish forces in Iraq.
Meanwhile, angered by the position of the central Iraqi government, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus hit back and said nobody is allowed to oppose his country’s military presence at the Bashiqa camp in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
He claimed that Ankara’s military role is meant to bring about stability and that his country does not seek to become an occupying force.
The presence of Turkish soldiers at Bashiqa comes at the request of the local Kurdish government there, added Kurtulmus, stressing that “Turkey will not allow this to become a matter of debate.”
For months, Iraq has been preparing for the assault on Daesh in Mosul, which slipped into the hands of the terrorists in 2014.
The operation for Mosul is highly significant as estimates say about half of the city’s pre-war population of two million still remains there.
Daesh, based on intelligence information, has reportedly between 4,000 and 5,000 terrorists in the city, making the situation more complicated.
The Iraqi prime minister had earlier said that all troops participating in the Mosul offensive are from Iraq and no foreigners would be among them.