Turkey has halted the deployment of troops to northern Iraq for now but will not withdraw those already there, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, after Baghdad demanded the withdrawal of soldiers sent near the IS-held city of Mosul.
In a phone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart late on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reiterated Ankara’s respect for Iraq’s territorial integrity, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç told reporters.
Turkey says its latest deployment of soldiers to northern Iraq is part of a mission to train and equip Iraqi forces.
But the Iraqi government says it never invited such a force and will take its case to the United Nations if they are not pulled out.
Its Foreign Ministry said Turkey had deployed forces without Baghdad’s permission and warned that it considered the step as a “hostile act.”
Separately, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said he wanted to visit Baghdad as soon as possible to try to calm the row over the troop deployment.
Turkish troops were in Iraq to protect against a possible attack from IS and those who interpreted their presence differently were involved in “deliberate provocation”, Davutoğlu said in a speech to his party in parliament.
Two thousand people have been trained in the Bashiqa camp. This training program was started upon the demand of the Mosul governor. The mentioned increase of troops is a routine development in the face of rising security risks, Davutoğlu said.
In the meantime, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the presence of Turkey’s forces in Iraq without Baghdad’s approval is unacceptable.
The troops “have arrived there without asking for the permission of the legitimate Iraqi government.”
“We consider that this presence is unacceptable,” the ministry said.
On December 4, Turkey sent around 130 soldiers, tanks and artillery weapons to northern Iraq where Ankara is training Kurdish peshmerga fighters for attacks on Mosul, seized by the Islamic State group’s gunmen.
The apparent aiming of a shoulder-held missile-launcher at Istanbul by a Russian sailor while passing through the Bosphorus is little more than a “childish show,” Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Monday.
“We interpreted that image as a show,” Kurtulmuş told a news conference in Ankara after a cabinet meeting.