Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denounced the presence of Turkish soldiers on Iraqi soil as “unacceptable,” calling on Ankara to pull out from the Arab country.
“We demand that Turkey withdraw its troops from the Iraqi territory where they are located to strengthen the sovereignty of Iraq,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Lavrov as saying on Tuesday.
Last December, Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s northern Nineveh Province.
Ankara claimed the deployment was part of a mission to train and equip Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against Daesh terrorists, but Baghdad denounced the unauthorized move as a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty.
“This (keeping the troops in Iraq) is an absolutely unacceptable position,” Lavrov said, adding, “In principle, I believe that what the Turks are doing deserves far greater public attention on the part of our Western partners.”
The top Russian diplomat said Moscow is assisting Iraq in combating terrorism by providing arms to both Baghdad and the Kurdish fighters in the country.
Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called on Russia to pull out its forces from Syria, where the Russian military is conducting a Damascus government-sanctioned aerial campaign against terrorist groups.
‘Time running out for US’
Elsewhere in his remarks, Lavrov said the postponement of the start of air raids on the terrorist groups that have not joined a ceasefire in Syria will expire this week.
Moscow put forward a proposal for joint aerial assaults with Washington back in May, but the US has so far refused to cooperate.
“They (the Americans) have now asked for a few more days before the scheme announced by us is enacted, according to which [those] who have not joined reconciliation, are declared a legal target… These several days expire literally this week,” he said.
The nation-wide cessation of hostilities, brokered by Moscow and Washington, was introduced in Syria in February in a bid to facilitate dialogue between rival parties in the country. Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups were excluded from the truce.
On September 30, 2015, Russia launched an air campaign against Daesh and other terrorist groups upon a request by the Damascus government. Later in mid-March, the bulk of Russian military forces were withdrawn from Syria.
Meanwhile, Washington along with some of its allies has been conducting air raids against alleged Daesh positions in Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or the UN. The strikes have failed to disband the extremists.
Also commenting on the sour Moscow-Ankara relations, Lavrov said it is up to Turkey to initiate any normalization of the ties by making an apology for the shooting down of a Russian jet along the Syrian-Turkish border last November.
“We said that Turkey ought to apologize and compensate for the losses suffered from that illegal action and war crime,” he said.
Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24M Fencer aircraft with two pilots aboard, claiming the fighter jet had violated Turkish airspace. Moscow denied the claim, saying that the plane was brought down in Syrian airspace.
One of the pilots of the Russian jet was killed by militants on the ground in Syria. The other one survived.