Mosul gap remains between Turkey, Iraq

Mosul gap remains between Turkey, Iraq

Mosul gap remains between Turkey, Iraq

DHA photo

The gap between Ankara and Baghdad over the deployment of Turkish troops to a base near Mosul continues to widen, with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry set to lodge a formal complaint at the U.N. Security Council and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowing that those forces will not be pulled back. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has instructed the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to lodge a complaint at the U.N. Security Council over “an incursion by Turkish troops in the north of the country,” according to a statement released on the prime ministry’s website on Dec. 11. 

The statement describes the act as a “flagrant violation of the provisions and principles of the U.N. Charter,” adding that it is in “violation of the sanctity of Iraqi territory and the sovereignty of the Iraqi state.” It reiterates al-Abadi’s claims that the deployment was made without the knowledge and approval of the Iraqi authorities, while also calling on the U.N. Security Council to “assume its responsibilities.” 

One day before the order, al-Abadi said the “crisis” over the deployment of Turkish troops at the Bashiqa camp near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul could only be solved with the “full withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraqi territory.”

The latest statement came after a visit to Baghdad on Dec. 10 by a Turkish delegation headed by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Chief Hakan Fidan.

The withdrawal of Turkish forces would pave the way for “positive relations, coordination and cooperation between the two neighboring countries in various fields,” the statement also said.

‘No withdrawal of troops’

However, President Erdoğan again vowed on Dec. 11 that Turkey would not withdraw troops, despite strong objections from Baghdad. 

The deployed soldiers are not combat troops, but have been sent to protect soldiers providing training to Iraqi and Kurdish forces, Erdogan told reporters on Dec. 11 before departing for a visit to Turkmenistan. He added that Turkey is “determined” to continue the training program.

Approximately 150 Turkish soldiers were deployed near Mosul on Dec. 4 to replace training forces already in the area. In addition, 20-25 tanks were also deployed to the region.

On Dec. 10, Erdoğan had said it was “out of the question at the moment” that Turkish troops would withdraw from Iraq. 

The row has badly soured relations and saw the Turkish ambassador to Iraq summoned on Dec. 5 to demand that Turkey immediately withdraw hundreds of troops deployed near the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-controlled city of Mosul. 

Turkey to reorganize troops according to Baghdad’s concerns

Despite the uncompromising language from Erdoğan, sources suggest that moves are being made behind the scenes to smooth over the tension. One day after Sinirlioğlu and Fidan’s visit to Baghdad, sources from the Turkish Prime Ministry said a decision had reached to reorganize the Turkish troops on Iraqi soil by taking Baghdad’s concerns into consideration. 

Turkish troops who have been stationed at the Bashiqa camp near Iraq’s Mosul since 2014 in order to train Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces against the ISIL threat would be reorganized in accordance with the Iraqi government’s sensitivities, the sources said on Dec. 11. 

They added that Turkish and Iraqi officials have agreed to begin new efforts to launch a mechanism for deeper security cooperation.

Turkish defense minister to visit Baghdad 

On Dec. 11, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz would shortly pay a visit to Baghdad upon a consensus reached with Iraqi Foreign Minister İbrahim al-Jaafari.

The Iraqi defense minister had been scheduled to visit Turkey, but al-Jaafari preferred to host the Turkish minister over tensions between Ankara and Baghdad, Çavuşoğlu said on Dec. 11 in a televised interview.

He stressed that 1,040 Iraqis were still at the Bashiqa Camp for advanced training in order to participate in a planned operation against ISIL in Mosul. 

“We’ll decide together whether to increase or decrease the number of Turkish troops there,” Çavuşoğlu said.
He added that in a telephone conversation he had asked al-Jaafari whether the Iraqi government could provide security for Turkish troops in Mosul, to which his Iraqi counterpart said they were not able to provide forces.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Turkish forces had entered Iraqi territory without the knowledge of Baghdad, which viewed their presence as a “hostile act.”

On the evening of Dec. 10, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden by telephone that Turkey “respects Iraq’s sovereignty,” according to prime ministry sources.

U.S. officials requested the call, the sources said, in which Davutoğlu emphasized that Ankara stands alongside Baghdad in its struggle against ISIL. A letter expressing these sentiments is also due to be delivered to the Iraqi PM by a high-level Turkish delegation.