Turkey withdraws troops from Iraq after Obama appeal

Turkey withdraws troops from Iraq after Obama appeal
Turkey says it will withdraw more troops from northern Iraq and acknowledged there had been a miscommunication with the Iraqi government over the issue.
2 min read
20 December, 2015
Many Iraqis took to the streets to demand Turkey pulls out its troops [Getty]

Turkey will continue to pull its troops out of northern Iraq after US President Barack Obama urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to do so, in order to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad over the deployment.

"Taking into account the sensitivities on the Iraqi side... Turkey will continue the process it has already begun to withdraw its troops stationed in Mosul province," the foreign ministry said in a statement. 

The Iraqi government earlier this week demanded the "complete withdrawal" of Turkish troops from its territory after Turkey deployed soldiers and tanks to a military camp near the city of Mosul.

Baghdad labelled the deployment an illegal "incursion" but Turkey said it was to protect Turkish trainers working with Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State (IS) group.

In a phone call on Friday, Obama asked Erdogan to take steps "to de-escalate tensions with Iraq, including by continuing to withdraw Turkish military forces".

He also urged Turkey "to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq". 

A senior Turkish official said last week that between 150 and 300 soldiers and 20 tanks were deployed to protect Turkish military trainers at the Bashiqa camp near Mosul.

Turkey began partially withdrawing troops from the area on Monday. 

In its statement late Saturday, the foreign ministry said there had been a "lack of communication" with Baghdad on the matter and that Ankara "would continue to coordinate with the Iraqi government over its military contribution to the country in the fight against Daesh (IS)". 

The Bashiqa base came under fire from Islamic State on Wednesday, when militants fired rockets as they launched a wave of attacks against Kurdish forces. Turkish armed forces said its soldiers returned fire and four had been lightly wounded in the incident. 

Iraq has taken its criticism of the deployment to the UN Security Council, which met on the issue on Friday. Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari asked the body to adopt a resolution demanding Turkey withdraw its troops immediately.