No Turkish withdrawal from Bashiqa ‘until Mosul offensive is over’
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARATurkey will not withdraw its troops from the Bashiqa military camp in northern Iraq until the end of the Mosul offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a Turkish official has told the Hürriyet Daily News, elaborating on talks held during Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s recent trip to Iraq.
Delegations from Turkey and Iraq will convene in a couple of months to discuss the modalities of a future withdrawal, said the official, who is familiar with Yıldırım’s discussions with his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi.
Although Turkey is not planning an immediate withdrawal of its troops from the camp, the prime ministers of the two countries stressed Iraqi sensitivities in the joint statement, in order to ease Baghdad’s position regarding the troops, which had raised bilateral tension last year.
Ankara and Baghdad had negotiated on a memorandum of understanding since September, but they could not sign it due to differences regarding status of the Bashiqa military camp.
“There is a verbal agreement in mind and the Iraqi administration is aware that our troops are not permeant there, but they have to consider public opinion in Iraq,” the official said, adding that the parties will not sign an agreement in the near feature.
Meanwhile, the two countries have reiterated the elimination of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements in Sinjar in northern Iraq and agreed on the joint efforts of the Peshmerga forces of Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi administration to that end.
“Our concern was over any cooperation between the [Iraqi Shiite Popular Mobilization Units] Hashd-i Shabi and PKK elements in a move targeting Tal Afar, but that is out of the question at the moment,” said the official, adding that Baghdad has pledged that Hashd-i Shabi fighters will not get involved in the Mosul and Tel Afar campaigns.
In Baghdad, Yıldırım and al-Abadi issued a joint statement highlighting joint anti-terror stance and the need to resolve the Bashiqa issue. One of the most important results of the visit was on Bashiqa, which Yıldırım vowed to resolve “in a friendly manner,” leading to speculation that Turkish troops would be withdrawn in the coming period.
“The parties have emphasized that the Bashiqa camp is an Iraqi camp. By stating that it preserves its position on Bashiqa camp, the Iraqi side underlined the need to resolve this situation by Turkey beginning the withdrawal process of its forces,” read the statement.
Al-Abadi, on the other hand, said an agreement had been reached with Turkey on an Iraqi demand that Turkish forces withdraw from the Bashiqa camp, Iraqi state TV reported.
Turkey raises customs problem
Meanwhile, the Turkish delegation in Iraq reportedly raised the problems faced by Turkish businessmen regarding goods that are double-processed through customs both at the Habur customs gate in northern Iraq and in Baghdad.
In addition, Ankara is continuing to demand that nine schools in Iraq affiliated with U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen be closed.