Friday 23 March 2018

Iraqi prime minister calls for withdrawal of Turkish troops

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said no foreign troops were needed to fight Islamic State in his country
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said no foreign troops were needed to fight Islamic State in his country

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi has called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Iraq.

In a national address on Friday night, he insisted no foreign forces are needed to fight Islamic State (IS) in his country.

Turkey has had troops in northern Iraq to help train local Kurdish and Sunni forces since last year, but the arrival of additional troops last week sparked an uproar in Baghdad.

Turkey subsequently halted new deployments but has refused to withdraw its soldiers.

Iraq has already tried to solve the crisis with "peaceful and diplomatic means", Mr Abadi said in the televised address. "We gave our neighbour Turkey a time limit to withdraw its troops and not to close the door to dialogue."

Earlier Mr Abadi asked the foreign ministry to submit a complaint to the United Nations about the presence of Turkish troops near the IS-held city of Mosul.

Mr Abadi asked the UN Security Council to "shoulder its responsibilities" and order the withdrawal of the Turkish troops.

"This is a flagrant violation of the provisions and principles of the UN Charter and in violation of the sanctity of Iraqi territory," a statement from his office said.

US ambassador Samantha Power, the current council president, said that the Iraqi ambassador had delivered a letter in Arabic, but it had not yet been translated.

"There's growing alarm from the Iraqi government," Ms Power said. "Any troop deployment must have the consent of the Iraqi government."

Iraq's religious leaders also admonished Turkey during a sermon in Karbala. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said Turkey should not have sent "troops to the territory of another state under the pretext of supporting the fight against terrorism" and called on the Iraqi government to "protect the sovereignty of Iraq".

The representative of the cleric, Ahmed al-Safi, relayed his words during a Friday sermon.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey has no plans to withdraw troops and would continue with the training process "in agreement" with Iraq. He did not elaborate.

Mr Erdogan defended Turkey's move to send more troops, saying IS and other terror groups were "running wild" and Baghdad was unable to protect Turkish soldiers there.

"Are we to wait for the invitation of the central Iraqi government when there is an attack to our country? We have no such luxury," Mr Erdogan said.

Earlier, a government statement said Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and foreign ministry under-secretary Feridun Sinirlioglu met Iraqi officials in Baghdad and the sides agreed to work toward forming "new mechanisms" to deepen co-operation in security.

Press Association

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