Ankara, October 5, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Turkey and Iraq summoned their respective ambassadors on Oct. 5 amid bitter verbal exchanges regarding Turkish troops in the Bashiqa region of Mosul, as tension rises between two neighboring countries ahead of a planned operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Ankara believes an offensive by Shia militias will backlash in Sunni-populated Mosul and argues that Sunni fighters, trained by Turkish troops in the Bashiqa military camp, should be a key part of the Mosul offensive.
The Foreign Ministry summoned Iraqi Ambassador to Ankara Husham al-Alawi on Oct. 5 over the Iraqi parliament’s demand for Turkish troops to leave the Bashiqa region of Iraq, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
On the same day, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the charge d’affaires of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad to protest what it said were “provocative” comments made in Ankara about keeping Turkish troops in northern Iraq.
On Oct. 4, Iraq’s parliament asked the government to send a diplomatic note to Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad, to describe Turkish troops in the country as “hostile occupying forces,” and to reconsider trade and economic ties with Turkey. It also rejected Turkish lawmakers’ recent decision to extend the mandate on authorization of the government for cross-border military operations into Iraq.
Turkey is ready to cooperate with the Iraqi government in every way to defeat terrorist organizations from the neighboring country, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 5.
“Iraq belongs to Iraqis, Syria belongs to Syrians,” Kurtulmuş told reporters in Istanbul, while adding that it was impossible for Ankara to allow any terrorist group to change the ethnicity and demographic structure in the region and stressing that Iraq and other countries should not allow such moves either.
“About the Bashiqa issue, it is obvious that the [Kurdish] regional administration in northern Iraq and the [Massoud] Barzani administration had asked for [Turkey’s] support and sought help from Turkish troops, especially for training their local forces to rescue Mosul. This is not disputable. Turkey will not let the Bashiqa issue become a matter of debate,” he added, stressing that Turkey’s presence in Bashiqa was “not an occupation.”
In a written statement on Oct. 4, the Turkish Foreign Ministry similarly condemned the Iraqi Parliament’s characterization of Turkish troops in Bashiqa as “occupiers.”
“We strongly condemn the Iraqi parliament’s unacceptable decision, including dirty accusations against the Turkish President,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the decision did not reflect the opinion of the Iraqi people who Turkey has stood by and supported for years.
It also highlighted that Turkey had been fighting ISIL, which is a threat to its national security, and that Ankara is a member of the international coalition fighting the terror group.
“Turkey has lost thousands of citizens due to the terror threat from Iraq and has defended Iraq’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, stability and security taking huge political and economic risks, despite being affected directly by the instability caused by the sectarian approach of Iraq,” the statement added.
A mandate that allows military action against terror organizations in neighboring Syria and Iraq for one more year was first approved by Turkey’s parliament in 2007 and extended after ISIL appeared, according to the statement.
“Turkey will maintain its determination in fighting against terrorist organizations that threaten national security as a right to self-defense, as well as in protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq, with which it shares a common future,” according to the statement.
It urged the Iraqi authorities to “take the friendly hand that Turkey offers” to the benefit of Iraq and the region “in a period that is very critical in terms of fighting against Daesh.”
Over last weekend, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of possible “sectarian” results arising from the Mosul operation. Any liberation of Mosul should be conducted by those with ethnic and religious ties to the city, Erdoğan said, objecting to the use of Shiite militiamen.
An unspecified number of Turkish troops in the Bashiqa camp outside ISIL-controlled Mosul in northern Iraq are involved in training Iraqi fighters who plan to recapture the city.
Baghdad has demanded the immediate withdrawal of forces that it said Turkey “illegally” sent into Iraq.