Turkey said Thursday that its troops will remain in Iraq despite Baghdad’s growing anger ahead of a planned operation to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Takfiri ISIL group.
Baghdad has accused Ankara of risking a regional war by keeping its forces inside Iraq and called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss the dispute, which has complicated plans for the ambitious Mosul operation.
“No matter what the Iraqi government in Baghdad says, a Turkish presence will remain there to fight against Daesh (ISIL), and to avoid any forceful change of the demographic composition in the region,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in televised comments.
Turkey has an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq — around 500 of them in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq training Iraqi fighters who hope to participate in the battle to recapture Mosul, according to Turkish media.
The Turkish parliament on Saturday extended a government mandate by one year, allowing its troops to remain on both Iraqi and Syrian soil.
The Iraqi parliament labeled the Turkish troops an occupying force, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi raised fears that Turkey’s move could lead to “regional war”.
Iraq has also requested an emergency session of the Security Council “to discuss the Turkish encroachment into Iraqi territory and intervention in its internal affairs,” the foreign ministry announced.
Ankara has meanwhile summoned the Iraqi ambassador and Baghdad was summoning the Turkish envoy in a tit-for-tat move.
Yildirim on Thursday said Baghdad’s reaction was not in “good faith”.
“It’s not the (Iraqi) government’s right to speak like that,” he said.
“When troops from 63 countries are present there, it is unreasonable (for the Iraqi government) to focus on Turkey’s presence.”