Turkey Halts Troop Deployment, but Illegally Remains in Iraq*
Turkey says it has currently stopped the deployment of troops to northern Iraq, warning, however, that it will not withdraw those soldiers already stationed in the Arab country.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic announced the development at a press conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Tuesday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated Ankara’s respect for Iraq’s territorial integrity during a Monday phone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, Bilgic stated.
On December 4, Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of the city of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh Province.
Ankara claimed the deployment was part of a mission to train and equip Iraqi forces in the fight against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group. Baghdad, however, strongly condemned the deployment of the Turkish battalion on the Iraqi territory, branding the uncoordinated act a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty.
On December 6, Iraq gave Turkey 48 hours to pull out its forces or face all available options, including recourse to the United Nations Security Council.
Separately, in a speech to his party in the Turkish parliament, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he was determined to visit Iraq as soon as possible to try to calm the latest Ankara-Baghdad tensions over the troops deployment. The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by violence ever since Daesh began its march through the territory in June 2014. Iraqi army soldiers and Popular Mobilization Units have been engaged in joint operations to take back the militant-held regions.
Anti-Turkey demo in Iraq
In another development on Tuesday, people staged a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in the Iraqi capital to express their dissatisfaction with the deployment of Turkish forces. Carrying placards denouncing the presence of the troops, the protesters called for the urgent withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the Iraqi soil, Arabic-language al-Sumaria satellite television network reported.
Meanwhile, Russia, whose relations with Turkey have also sharply deteriorated after Ankara recently shot down one of its fighter jets, described as unlawful the presence of Turkish forces in Iraq without Baghdad’s consent.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on Tuesday that it considered Ankara’s move to deploy troops to northern Iraq “illegal” and “a very serious factor of tensions,” emphasizing that “the forces arrived there without the approval of the Iraqi government.”