NRTTV – 5 Oct 2016 – ANKARA,— Turkish troops deployed to northern Iraq in 2015 entered the country to train local fighters at the request of Massoud Barzani, Turkey’s deputy prime minister said Wednesday. Numan Kurtulmus told reporters that Turkey’s military does not intend to become an occupying force in Iraq and that the troop deployment was an effort to aid in maintaining stability in the country, Reuters reported.
“Turkish forces are at Iraq’s Bashiqa camp, at the request of the Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, to train the local forces,” Kurtulmus said. “Turkey will not allow this to become a matter of debate.”
Ankara and Baghdad have summoned one other’s ambassadors after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned Turkey it could spark a “regional war” if it disregarded calls to withdraw troops from Iraq. Turkey’s foreign ministry denounced on Tuesday the Iraqi parliament’s view that Turkish troops stationed in the country are an occupying force.
The ministry released a statement saying Ankara remains determined to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey, Hisham Ali Akbar Ibrahim Al-Alawi, was called to the foreign ministry in Ankara early on Wednesday, the official Anadolu news agency reported. Also Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to protest what it said were “provocative” comments made in Ankara about keeping Turkish troops in northern Iraq, a ministry spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned Turkey that keeping troops in northern Iraq could lead to a “regional war,” according to comments broadcast on state TV on Wednesday.
Iraq’s Council of Representatives rejected a Turkish parliamentary bill to extend military actions in Iraq and Syria, and urged the Iraqi government to take immediate action by calling on the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League for proceedings against the existence of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil.
Turkey’s parliament on October 1 voted overwhelmingly to approve an existing mandate to extend Turkish military actions in Iraq and Syria for another year.
There are 800 Turkish troops deployed in the Mosul and Shaqlawa regions, the move that sparked a crisis between Ankara and Baghdad. Turkey sent a contingent of an additional 150 forces and 25 tanks in December 2015 to bolster its military presence in the Bashiqa camp, an area that has seen recent fighting.
Iraqi leaders said in December 2015 that hundreds of Turkish troops had arrived without their knowledge or approval, calling it a violation of its sovereignty. The Turkish troops are still present in Nineveh province, based at Camp Bashiq, 70 kilometres west of Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil.
Baghdad condemned the move, saying Turkey was not authorized to deploy combat personnel and demanded an immediate withdrawal. Ankara refused, defending the presence as necessary to protect its base, where Turkish troops are allegedly training Sunni Arab Hashd al-Watani militiamen to combat IS.
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