Iraqi FM calls for dialogue with Turkey over troop deployment

Published December 14th, 2015 - 06:00 GMT

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Sunday stressed his country’s keenness to maintain good relations with Turkey and to resolve the current diplomatic row between Baghdad and Ankara over the deployment of Turkish troops to northern Iraq.

"We are keen to keep our good relations with Turkey and are committed to finding a political solution to the crisis that has recently surfaced between the two countries," al-Jaafari said at a press conference in the Iraqi capital.

Nevertheless, the Iraqi FM stressed that "the sovereignty of Iraq is a red line that must not be crossed".

During Sunday’s parliamentary session, he added, "we reviewed the history of Iraqi-Turkish relations and confirmed the absence of any security agreements or memorandums of understanding with Turkey".

"All that we have in this respect are the minutes of a session that took place in 1983," said al-Jaafari, "which were later canceled by parliament in 2009."

Stressing Baghdad’s keenness on finding a political solution to the current row, al-Jaafari noted that Iraq had submitted a formal complaint to the UN Security Council (UNSC) regarding Turkey’s recent deployments to northern Iraq.

"We have also contacted UNSC members to explain our situation and have called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League," he said.

Since March, Turkey has been operating a training program in a camp near the town of Bashiqa -- located northeast of Mosul in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province -- to provide training to Iraqi volunteers as part of the fight against the Daesh militant group.

Turkish troops currently deployed in the camp have not been assigned combat duties.

On Dec. 4, approximately 150 Turkish soldiers and about 25 tanks were sent to the camp to replace training units already in the area.

The deployments led to the current tension between Ankara and Baghdad, with the latter asserting that they violated Iraqi sovereignty.

Iraq has demanded that Ankara withdraw the recently-deployed troops, but Turkey has yet to respond to the demand, saying they are merely intended to provide training.

Against this backdrop, the Turkish embassy in Baghdad recently called on its citizens to steer clear of all Iraqi provinces except those located in the northern Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) area.

Sovereignty 'under threat'

In a related development, Ayad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord and a former prime minister, likewise urged the government on Sunday to resolve the row with Turkey through dialogue and protect Turkish nationals working in the country.

"The Baghdad government must work through multiple channels to end tensions with Turkey," Allawi said in a statement.

These channels, he added, should include meetings with Turkish officials in addition to formal complaints lodged with the UNSC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League.

He went on to urge Baghdad "to be honest with the Iraqi people about the true size of the Turkish military intervention".

"We have to exercise self-control and safeguard the rights of Turkish citizens working in Iraq," Allawi said.

Allawi, who also served as Iraqi vice president from 2014 to 2015, added: "As Iraqis, we must maintain good relations with the people and government of Turkey and adopt the language of dialogue in order to guarantee Iraq’s sovereignty, which is under threat by various parties."

"Millions of displaced people and the spread of the Daesh [militant group] in many areas [of Iraq] indicate a lack of state sovereignty, which puts responsibility for purging Iraq of terrorists on the government," he said.

"If it is unable to do so, it should request international assistance," Allawi asserted.

Last week, Iraq gave Turkey 48 hours to withdraw the troops, but the deadline passed without Ankara doing so and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan subsequently ruled out a withdrawal.

"During a visit to Turkey in 2014, [Iraqi PM Haider] al-Abadi demanded [the dispatch of Turkish troops] for training," Erdogan said Friday.

"After these demands, we set up the Bashiqa camp," he added. "They [the Iraqi government] are aware of all of this."

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