Number of Turkish troops in Iraq will be set through talks: Ankara
ANKARATurkey said in a written statement on Dec. 8 that the number of its troops training volunteers near Mosul would be set following talks between the two countries’ defense ministers, in a bid to defuse three days of tension between the two neighboring countries.
The Foreign Ministry’s statement came as the 48-hour-long notice issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Bashiqa province of Mosul was nearing its expiration.
Turkey had already announced that it had stopped the deployment of around 350 commandos to the region for the protection of its non-combat military personnel training mostly the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
One new aspect announced by the statement was on Turkey’s readiness to seal a memorandum with the Iraqi Defense Ministry to outline the number of troops which could be stationed in the military facility and under which conditions they could provide training to Iraqi volunteers. The number of troops in Bashiqa can either be increased and decreased accordingly, the statement stressed.
The statement said the issues were expected to be discussed between the defense ministries of the two countries but did not detail when this meeting would take place. Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi was expected to travel to Turkey but this visit has seemingly been canceled, although there has been no an official announcement.
“It is unacceptable to think that Turkey would take a step that would weaken Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, over which Turkey has a high sensitivity,” the statement said. “Due to the sensitivity that has occurred among the authorities in Iraq, our friend and brother, we stopped the force deployment to Bashiqa two days ago.”
Turkey has provided training for more than 5,000 Iraqi personnel in recent years and the main purpose of this activity in Bashiqa is to train Iraqi volunteers against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).